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LIFE OF GIBSON. 



LONDON : PRINTKD BY 
SPOTTISWOODB AND CO., NEW*STREBT SQUARE 
AND PARLIAMENT STREET 




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LIFE 



OF 



JOHN GIBSON, R.A. 



SCULPTOR. 



EDITED BY LADY EASTLAKE. 



LONDON : 
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

1870. 



/ J 

I " 



The right of Translation is reserved. 



OXFORD 



JUN1948 



PREFACE 



>- •* > 



I HAVE been induced, by the earnest request of mutual 

friends, to undertake the task and privilege of editing 

the Life of Mr. Gibson. It has been an occupation 

both sad and pleasant to trace the course of so original 

and guileless a character, and of so valued a friend. 

I am principally indebted to Mr. Henry Sandbach 

of Hafodunos, to Miss Mary Lloyd of Rhagatt, to 

Mr. Penry Williams, and to Miss Hosmer, of Rome, 

for a large portion of the materials contained in the 

following pages, and for much information during the 

course of the work. 

E. E. 

October 1869. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGE 

Characteristics of Gibson — His Greek Predilections — De- 
votion to his Art — Indifference to Gain — History of his 
Autobiography — Mrs, Henry Sandbach — Standards of 
Sculpture — Education of a Sculptor . . . i 



CHAPTER IL 

Birth and Home Education — Drawings of Geese and Horse 
— Renuyval to Liverpool — Studies at Print-shop Windo^vs 
— School Anecdotes — Apprenticed to a Cabinet-maker — 
Resolution to be a Sculptor — Indentures transferred to 
Marble Workers — Mr, William Roscoe — Cartoon — 
Study of Anatomy — The d'Aguilar Family — John 
Kemble — First Exhibition at Royal Academy — Removal 
to London — Busts for Mr. Watson Taylor .20 

CHAPTER III. 

Departure for Rome — Madame Pasta — Canova^s li- 
berality — Introduced at Canova's Academy — Education 
of a Sculptor at Rome—' TJie Slewing Shepherd'— 
Commissions from Duke of Devonshire and Sir George 
Beaumont — Happiness at Rome — Sir Watkin Williams 
Wynn . . . . . . 44 



viii Contents, 



CHAPTER IV. 



PAGE 



Preference for Rome over London — Elected Member of St, 
Lukis Academy — Thorwaldsen and his Danish Baroness 
— Camuccini — ^Love disguised as Shepherd^ — Election 
as Associate to Royal Academy — The Hunter and Dog 
— The Streets of Rome — The Aurora — Michael Angelo — 
Classical Costume . . . . .62 

CHAPTER V. 

Grazia — Birth of Venus — Earthly and Heavenly Love — 
At Yverdun — Illustrations of Psyche — Anecdote of 
Turner-^Thunderstorm in the Alps . • • 93 

CHAPTER VI. 

Statues of Mr, Huskisson — Mrs, Huskisson — Bronze Cast- 
ing at Munich — Principles of Portrait Sculpture — Public 
Dinners at Liverpool and Glasgow — Commission from 
the Queen — Visit to Windsor — Queen^s Statue — Colour 
— Richard Wyatt — Bombardment of Rome . -113 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Concessions of Pio Nono — Emancipated Liberals — 
Gibson^s Trials and Reflections — The Pope's Constitu- 
tion — Reports current in Rome — The Austrian Escutcheon 
— The Volunteers — Revolt of National Guard — Murder 
cf Punch — Murder of Count Rossi — The Little Waiter 
— The Prohibited Knife — The Madman — Garibaldi — 
The French within sight of Rome — GibsotCs relreai . 135 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Pio Nonds return to Rome — Walk through the Sculpture 
Galleries of the Vatican — Gallery of the Capitol — Sculp- 
ture in the Villa Ludovisi — Bernini . . .168 



Contents, ix 



CHAPTER IX. 

PAGE 

Illness and Death of Mr, Benjamin Gibson — Death of 
Mrs, Sandhach . . .194 

CHAPTER X. 

Prospects of high-class Sculpture in England — A Roman 
Education — Proceedings at Academy of St. Luke — Group 
of the Queen — Statue of Venus — Gibson as Pygmalion 
— Colour — Statue of Pandora — of Bacchus — Portrait 
Statue Coloured — Exhibition of 1862 — Memorial to 
Prince Consort . . .201 



CHAPTER XI. 

GibsorCs Pupil^ Miss Hosmer — His Railway and other 
Adventures — Analysis of his Art — His wonderfully 
executed Drawings — Summary of his Character — Illness 
— Death — Last Letter; to Lady Eastlake — Will in 
favour of Royal Academy — Monuments erected to him — 
Portraits of him , .226 

Catalogue of his Works .... 249 



LIFE 



OF 



JOHN GIBSON 



-««•:< 



CHAPTER I. 

Characteristics of Gibson — His Greek Predilections — Devotion to 
his Art — Indifference to Gain — History of his Autobiography — ■ 
Mrs, Henry Sandbach — Standards of Sculpture — Education 
of a Sculptor, 

IT is usual to sum up the character of a man 
towards the close of his biography, and 
this custom will not perhaps be entirely departed 
from here; but, in the Life now about to be 
offered to the public, it is expedient to give the 
general reader some clue to the character, before 
introducing him to the individual. The character 
of * John Gibson, Sculptor, Rome ' — a simple ad- 
dress well known to a large circle — is one in which 
society as it is, and must be constituted, is slow to 
believe. We are ready to acknowledge superiority 

B 



2 Life of John Gibson. 

when shown in brilliant abilities, and feats of in- 
tellectual strength, but we smile incredulously 
when told of one who has less of the leaven of 
our common nature than we know to be in our- 
selves. But this was simply and truly the case 
with Gibson, and it will materially assist the 
reader s first impressions of the coming pages, if 
he can be prevailed upon to start with this belief. 
There is no word more overused, and more 
falsely used, in modern parlance than the word 
* Genius.' It is dealt out right and left to every 
form of art, science, and success, with a frequency 
which is alone a sufficient proof of its misapplica- 
tion. We do not presume to take up the reader's 
time with a definition of this term, but some con- 
ception of what we believe it to mean, may be 
superficially expressed in the assertion that genius 
resides more in the qualities of the mind, than in 
the powers of the brain. Admitting this, there 
follows, therefore, a certain moral consistency in 
the general character of a genius, which is some- 
times wanting in the man of talent. The genius 
may be a thorough simpleton in the affairs of this 
world, and a dunce in matters which the rest of us 
find it very easy to acquire; but these incapacities, 
which we begin by treating as follies or shams, we 



His Genuine Simplicity. 3 

end, when convinced of their real source and 
nature (and who was not so convinced in Gibson's 
case ?) by respecting with a feeling which is good 
for ourselves. We all, even the most guileful 
among us, love the sacred simplicity of childhood, 
and know that this quality will depart with riper 
years, to be replaced by others less attractive, but 
more needful for the battle of life. But Gibson, 
in this respect, remained a child, never exchanging 
his guileless simplicity for a maturer, but less pure 
wisdom. His estimate of mankind was amusing 
—no one was more easily imposed upon by man, 
and still more so by woman. Indeed, the victory 
was too easy for many to attempt it; his very 
simplicity protected him. Yet he saw readily 
into characters of analogous sincerity with his 
own, and had very sweeping definitions for those 
which were too glaringly the reverse. Living at 
Rome in a moral atmosphere the most opposite to 
that within his own breast, he would thus occa- 
sionally deliver his soul : * The sons of Adam are 
very bad animals — the beasts would be as bad as 
Christians if they could speak.' (Letter to Miss 
Parkes, June 19, 1849.) 

Thus far Gibson's wisdom was of a very childlike 
type. In matters of principle, however, in single- 

B 2 



4 * Life of yokn Gibson. 

hearted, courageous truthfulness, in indomitable 
power of resolution, and in a certain dignity of 
self-respect, no one ever arrived more fully at man's 
estate — in generous recognition of the merits of 
others, in ready forgiveness of injuries, few will 
attain a higher standard. That he enjoyed entire 
immunity from envy or jealousy is what we would 
fain accept as the sine qua non with all great artists, 
but that he was equally delivered from irritability 
of nerve or temper is what cannot always be 
asserted of the votaries of the arts. But Gibson 
emphatically possessed his soul in patience and 
peace. He was habitually serene in temperament, 
like his own statues in repose ; though there was 
fire and passion beneath, as some of his works 
might also exemplify. But though capable of 
ardent affection, his love for his art asserted its 
supremacy, and (not altogether perhaps without 
an occasional struggle) took the place of all other 
sources of happiness. He passed through life 
therefore with few cares, and, beyond his two 
brothers, with no domestic ties ; though no man 
was ever the object of truer friendships and purer 
attachments. 

Gibson especially possessed that characteristic 
of genius which bends circumstances to itself. 



His Social Position, 5 

but which does not return the compliment. It 
mattered not where he was — in the society of 
high or low, under the influences of foreign or 
English life— he was always the same. Those 
who knew him, knew what to expect; always 
found it, and always loved it more and more. To 
$uch his friendship was a source of mutual in- 
terest ; to those who survive him his memory is a 
common bond. 

Yet, though repudiating the power of external 
influences, in the common sense, over his grand, 
normal nature, there is no doubt that he was 
fortunate in his honest, lowly birth, and early home 
training — ^fortunate in the very disadvantages, so 
called, of poverty and position, which, rightly 
used, are the surest roads to distinction and suc- 
cess. What inclined an obscure lad, — ushered into 
the world under circumstances apparently the most 
adverse (his father was a market gardener), — to 
that love of art which culminated in a devotion 
to the abstract forms of Ideal Beauty — what 
affinity there was between a poor Welsh boy, 
born at the close of the eighteenth century, 
speaking in his early years only Welsh, and pre- 
destined, it would seem, to no higher lot than the 
tillage of the earth — what affinity there was be- 



6 Life of yohn Gibson. 

tween him and that ancient Greek mind, no longer 
brought forth even on its own soil — is a question 
which it is fruitless to ask. Genius, in whatever 
form, is without descent, a new creation, admitting 
of no solution, not traceable, save as the will of 
the Creator. Yet, though foremost in that classic 
predilection, Gibson was not alone in it. It ran 
like a vein through the family. Both his brothers, 
Solomon and Benjamin, followed him from afar in 
the taste for sculpture. The younger — ' Mr. Ben,' 
as Gibson always called him — devoted also his 
energies to the study of the classic languages, and, 
living for many years with the great sculptor at 
Rome, was the ready interpreter of those ancient 
oracles whence John Gibson drew constant in- 
spiration. Solomon Gibson, the other brother, 
was also a devourer of books, but there was an 
absence of purpose in the direction of his studies, 
and he passed through life, a strange and useless, 
though not a commonplace man, chiefly dependant 
on the bounty of the object of these memoirs. 

Gibson's character has been, in one respect, mis- 
taken by some who knew him little, and looked 
upon him from a conventional point of view. He 
has been represented as fond of money. We meet 
this supposition at once, and without reserve. 



His Indifference to Money. 7 

Where a man's life was as clear as daylight, this 
was perhaps the only point on which there could 
well be any diversity of opinion. That he was 
thought to love money by some, was simply a 
conclusion from his not loving to spend it in their 
way. But temperaments like Gibson's have little 
use for money in the form that tells in the world. 
He had been brought up in habits of plainness 
and frugality, and his heart was so simple and his 
wants so few that he was scarcely conscious that 
there was any self-denial in them. He cared not 
what he ate or drank — his tailor's bill cost him 
very little — his ruminations on the Greeks cost 
him nothing. He gave no dinners, and set his 
name to few public subscriptions. In truth, he 
cared too little about money, and, from that very 
reason, was indifferent to money s worth. He 
hardly knew what he possessed, and considered 
some mercantile friends exceedingly kind for keep- 
ing his earnings, to the amount of many thousands, 
in their hands, and allowing him three per cent 
Had he given to financial matters the mere average 
amount of thought, he might easily and legiti- 
mately have trebled or quadrupled his fortune. 
He might have done as other sculptors did, and 
do (at least, in Rome), and have kept a supply of 



8 Life of John Gibson. 

replicas of his most popular works all ready in his 
studio, for sale to those who like to come, to see, 
and to carry away — such replicas representing 
literally so much ready m6ney to a sculptor of 
established fame. But Gibson refrained from 
such practices ; not from abstinence, not from 
overstrained principle, not because he thought 
them wrong in others; but simply because his 
thoughts never travelled in the money-getting 
direction. Where his treasure was, there was his 
heart, and whoever might visit his studio, what- 
ever it might contain, Gibson was always absorbed 
in one subject, and that was the particular work, 
or part of the work — were it but the turn of 
a corner of drapery — ^which was then under his 
modelling hands. Time was nothing to him — he 
was long and fastidious ; sometimes, as with his 
Hope, recommencing a statue entirely de novo. 
His pupil. Miss Hosmer, when modelling her 
Medusa head, expressed to him her shame at 
having been so long about it Gibson said, 
* Always try to do the best you can. Never mind 
how long you are upon a work — no. No one will 
ask how long you have been except fools ; you 
don't care what fools think/ His friends were 
even anxious lest he should not provide sufficiently 



His Liberality. 9 

for his latter days. In his own simple, quaint 
words, the following conversation passed between 
himself and one superficially interested in his 

welfare. * Mr. said, " I hope you are getting 

rich, for, after all, a man should look to that. 
Fame is such an uncertain thing, and people are 
so undecided about it : to-day one man is the 
fashion, to-morrow another, and so on." I replied, 
'* What you say is too true. It is owing to the 
ignorance of the patrons of art, who are more rich 
than knowing on the subject of art. But the 
productions of a man of real talent, refined by 
cultivation and taste upon the unchangeable (un- 
fashionable) laws of Nature, are the most likely to 
become fashionable hereafter. The mere money- 
making artist gets rich, lives, dies, and there's an 

end of him." I did not tell Mr. whether I 

was rich or no.' (Letter to Mrs. Sandbach, Oct 
19, 1841.) 

So much for his negative indifference to gain — 
his positive generosity was equally as indubitable. 
He paid his men not only liberally but lavishly, 
making them frequent presents. His open-handed 
unquestioning dealings in a few mercantile matters 
of art astonished those accustomed to the sharp 
practice of the present day. He allowed his 



lo Life of John Gibson, 

brother Solomon much more than he spent on 
himself, and he was ever ready to help the 
unfortunate, or to be imposed upon by the de- 
signing. 

It is a pure and beautiful, and, above all, a 
happy life to dwell on, without one dark corner to 
conceal — the very beau ideal of the artist-career 
— serene and uneventful, yet forming a consistent 
whole in which the reader will rather find repose 
than excitement. Gibson always saw his way 
straight on — was never irresolute — his aim at 
excellence was without self-interest; his desire 
for lasting fame at no expense of peace. And he 
had the happiness of knowing himself to be the 
right man in the right place. For he spent his 
life in the only spot which he acknowledged as 
the sculptor's true home; yet not doing, in one 
respect, as the Romans are supposed to do, for he 
kept aloof from politics and intrigues ; ever com- 
muning with what he felt to be the True and the 
Beautiful, and serving Art for her own sake only. 
And in his own language he thus recorded how 
richly she rewarded her votary : * In my art what 
do I feel ? what do I encounter ? — happiness : 
love which does not depress me, difficulties 
which I do not fear, resolutions which never 



His Autobiography. 1 1 

abate, flights which carry me above the crowd, 
ambition which tramples no one down.' (Letter to 
Mrs. Sandbach, January 25, 1842.) 

In attempting to present the Life of John 
Gibson to the world I have been especially 
anxious that he should speak for himself His 
thoughts and modes of expression (however lov- 
ingly mimicked by a few joyous friends) are such 
as none but he could furnish — the language of 
an Original, who never learned to spell ! Ample 
materials fortunately exist, both in his letters to 
friends and in a fragmentary autobiography, on 
which I shall largely draw. The history of this 
autobiography is in itself interesting, and intro- 
duces us to a lady who played a conspicuous part 
in the few but deep influences which swayed the 
mind of the sculptor, and to whom the tribute to 
his art, just quoted, was addressed. 

In 1838-9 — Gibson was then forty-eight years 
of age, and attaining the zenith of his activity — 
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sandbach, of Liverpool, 
spent the winter at Rome. Mrs. Sandbach, herself 
not unknown to fame,* united all that most com- 
mands admiration and respect. She was young, 

* Author of Aurora^ Giuliano d^ Medici^ &c. 



12 Life of John Gibson. 

enthusiastic, gentle, and joyous, with a beauty of 
figure and face peculiarly her own, — as engaging 
as it was intellectual — with gifts of genius (and 
never was that word more rightly applied) which 
moved harmoniously in subjection to duty and 
decorum — shedding gladness around her. Thus 
endowed, she was peculiarly fitted to enthral the 
better part of every intelligent man, and to be 
the friend and safe inspiration of kindred genius. 
Withal, she was the granddaughter of William 
Roscoe, of Liverpool — Gibbon s first patron — and 
inheritor of the intellect and culture associated 
with that name. Between her and Gibson ensued 
that class of tender friendship which is the highest 
compliment man and woman can pay each other. 
We have been favoured with the perusal of 
Gibson's letters to this gifted lady, and with the 
permission to extract from them. To Mrs. Sand- 
bach's affectionate admiration the first idea of the 
autobiography was owing. She felt, as all who ap- 
preciated Gibson felt, that the man was as much 
above the comprehension of the many as his 
works ; and in urging him to commit to paper the 
story of his simple and diligent life, she foresaw 
that the sculptor and his art would alike rise in 
estimation. Traces of her urgency in this respect 



Mrs. Henry Sandbach. 1 3 

occur as early as 1841 ; combated by him with 
modesty. * I suppose I njust begin the task which 
you have given me, which is to take up myself. 
But I have not done works of sufficient impor- 
tance to authorise my writing an account of myself. 
It is female partiality desires it' 

Subsequently, in 185 1, on occasion of a visit by 
Gibson to Hafodunos, Mr. Sandbach's country 
seat, the commencement of the biography was 
penned by her hand from his dictation. It is 
prefaced by observations on his character, in which 
she . dwells on that divine quality of aspiration, 
* Higher still, and higher,* which was the motto of 
his studio, and the star which led him on in the 
worship pf the highest sculptural and moral per- 
fection. To this worship Mrs. Sandbach's influ- 
ence gave ever fresh stimulus and direction. The 
fragment thus penned by her, and afterwards 
chiefly embodied in a later manuscript, ends 
abruptly with this note. * Here, I regret to say, our 
conversations were broken off — Gibson's depar- 
ture for Rome, and the death of his brother (' Mr. 
Ben ') changed the bright aspect of our meetings. 
And now I much fear that ill health on my part 
may prevent my pursuing a subject to which I 
have so long looked forward with hope and 



14 Life of John Gibson. 

pleasure. Margaret Sandbach, October, 1851/ 
She died, after great suffering, in 1852 ! 

There is no doubt that Gibson was under pro- 
mise to Mrs. Sandbach to carry on the thread of 
the narrative. In this he was, some years later, 
greatly encouraged and assisted by a gentleman 
of great scholarship and accomplishments, long 
resident in Rome, Mr. Robert Hay.^ By his 
advice Gibson was induced to note down daily 
some portion of his reminiscences, and to submit 
the result to him at the close of every week. For 
this purpose the sculptor and his pupil. Miss 
Hosmer (who came to Rome during the winter of 
1852-3), dined with Mr. Hay every Saturday. 
After dinner, Mr. Hay, then nearly blind, would 
walk up and down the room, listening attentively 
to the week's work, expressing his interest, making 
his criticisms, and carefully following the writer s 
intention through sentences not always composed 
according to the laws of syntax ; and, while leading 
Gibson adroitly to some paraphrase which made 
his meaning more clear, never interposing any 
suggestion that would make the style less his own. 
These Saturday evenings continued for three 

* Formerly private secretary to the Duke of Wellington. 



A Sculptors Education, 1 5 

years, carrying the narrative up to 1859, where it 
stops short 

We may add that one principal motive which 
induced Gibson to pen these reminiscences was 
the desire to impress upon his English readers the 
necessity of a Roman education for the student in 
sculpture. On this point he was an anxious and 
zealous advocate, ever drawing from his own ex- 
perience, and from the character of most of the 
later public monuments in London, fresh argu- 
ments for a radical reform in the direction of 
English taste and the training of English talent. 
He was brought, however unavailingly, more than 
once into communication with the English govern- 
ment on this point. 

The subject of sculpture, as more or less of all 
art, is one on which it is peculiarly difficult for a 
practical, hardworking, hurried, journal-led public 
to reason. It requires a class oi education for 
which they have few opportunities and small occa- 
sion, and for which they show their inaptitude at 
the outset by thinking all education superfluous. 
At the same time sculpture has a superficial side 
which peculiarly invites superficial judgment. For 
this art has two aspects — the one very low, the 
other supremely high. To fashion a lump of clay 



1 6 Life of yohn Gibson, 

into the likeness of a solid object is a mighty easy 
manufacture — to- know the conditions, capacities 
and limits of true style in sculpture is very high 
art. The multitude are caught by the mere 
imitation of familiar things, and give praise and 
encouragement to that of which they know not the 
utter facility. The appreciation of real plastic 
excellence requires a rare and peculiar training 
upon a naturally elevated feeling, and is, therefore, 
confined to the very few. The charm of antique 
sculpture and that of classic scholarship are pretty 
much on the same level ; both are equally incom- 
prehensible to the ignorant. Of five hundred 
averagely educated men and women in society 
there are not five who really and intelligently do 
homage to the transcendent sublimity of the Elgin 
marbles. Nevertheless four-fifths, at least, of that 
five hundred consider themselves qualified, with- 
out any standard of taste, to criticise what is fine, 
and admire what is wretched. The sculptor s true 
public, like the subjects of his art, is and must 
be very limited in extent. There is a prevalent 
feeling abroad that the excellencies handed down 
to us in the works of the old masters — whether 
sculptors or painters, Greek or Italian — are lifeless 
conventions, from which it is a merit to depart as 



Standards of Sculpture. 1 7 

widely as possible. As regards the art of painting, 
such contempt for authority, such aims at novelty, 
are less objectionable. In Gibson s own words, 
in a letter to Mr. Sandbach, * Sculpture is more 
calculated to improve and refine the taste than 
pictures are, because it is an art which requires 
chaste composition, beauty and correctness of form, 
and high sentiment — painting, on the other hand, 
admits of a far greater range, it allows the less 
beautiful and the familiar.' Though, therefore, 
the practice of the great painters of various bygone 
schools will scarcely be equalled, far less improved 
upon, yet novelties in subjects are the natural 
growth of every day. But the standards of sculp- 
ture as regards subject, treatment, and execution 
have been defined by works of an excellence which 
modern ages can never reach, and which it is only 
a wonder that any age should have attained. An- 
swering a friend who suggested a poetical image 
as a subject, Gibson says, * There are poetical 
pictures produced by description which are not so 
clear when represented in our art When an artist 
has learned the limits of his art he is far advanced.' 
Novelties in sculpture he therefore regarded rather 
as signs of ignorance than of genius, and earnestly 

c 



1 8 Life ofyohn Gibson. 

lifted up his voice against them. He maintained 
that the danger of aiming at novelty, or of falling 
into feebleness, were best counteracted by an 
education at Rome, under the shadow of antique 
examples, and of the then best living votaries. 
And Gibson was far from singular in that respect. 
Flaxman studied seven years in Rome, and urged 
all young English students to do the same. Thor- 
waldsen dated his birth from March 8, 1797 — the 
day he first entered Rome. It would seem as if 
the northern nature combined most readily with 
the spirit of antique art Canova, the soft, and 
graceful Venetian, however exquisite in finish and 
sometimes in sentiment, never attained that feeling 
for force and simplicity which distinguishes Flax- 
man, Thorwaldsen, and Gibson. But at the same 
time he urged his scholars to follow his precepts 
more than his practice — to look at the objects con- 
tained in the Vatican, and at the figures living in 
the streets, rather than at those produced in his 
own studio. 

The question of the true mode of educating a 
sculptor is mentioned so powerfully and urgently 
both in the reminiscences and correspondence 
of Gibson, that, unless admitted fully into the 



His Simple Annals. 19 

following pages, one of his chief wishes would 
remain unfulfilled. We will now let him speak for 
himself. There are few hearts which will not see 
much that is touching and edifying in these simple 
annals. 



C2 



20 Life of fohn Gibson. 



CHAPTER II. 

Birth and Home Education — Drawing of Geese and Horse — 
Removal to Liverpool — Studies at Print-shop Windows — School 
Anecdotes — Apprenticed to a Cabinet-maker — Resolution to be 
a Sculptor — Indentures transferred to Marble Workers — Mr, 
William Roscoe — Cartoon — Study of Anatomy — Thed^Aguilar 
Family— John Kemble — First Exhibition at Royal Academy — 
Removal to London — Busts for Mr, Watson Taylor, 

^ T T IS the love of my art and the desire of 
•*- imparting to the young the experience 
which I have gained in the course of a long period 
which induce me to record a few incidents in my 
life, and especially to state all concerning my 
studies during a residence of upwards of forty 
years at Rome. 

* I will begin from my earliest days to recount 
what my memory has retained. 

* Conway, North Wales, is greatly admired for 
the beauty of its scenery. It was there, near the 
castle, I was born in the year 1 790, and christened 
in the parish church."^* My father and mother were 

* Gibson may be excused for a slight inaccuracy as to the place 
of his birth. He was born at Gyffin, a small hamlet near Conway, 
but christened in Conway Church. His parents came to live near 
Conway Castle when he was an infant. 



Home Education. 2 1 

Welsh, and it was Welsh we spoke always. 
Speaking English was a labour to us. My father 
was a poor man, truly honest ; my mother was an 
excellent woman, passionate and strongmind^d ; 
she ruled my father always, and continued to 
govern us all as long as she lived. 

* I owe much to my mother s early instruction 
in truth and honesty. Lying, stealing, and drun- 
kenness were crimes of which she impressed me 
with the utmost horror and disgust. A poor boy, 
engaged in carrying a gentleman's letter-bag in 
our neighbourhood, stole a letter with money in it 
I remember listening to the conversation of my 
father and mother on this subject ; the grief and 
disgrace they painted in their description of the 
theft made a great impression on me. I remember 
also well a circumstance which was of the greatest 
importance to me, and ever inspired me with 
gratitude to my mother. One day I entered our 
home eating a cake ; my mother's quick eye fell 
upon it — she observed too that I made some 
attempt at concealment — so she questioned me. 
"Who gave you that?" I answered, "The 
woman in the street who sells cakes." She went 
to the corner of the room, where a rod was kept, 
then took me by the hand and led me to the woman. 



22 Life of yohn Gibson. 

*' Did you give this little boy a cake?" " No." 
Whereupon the rod was vigorously applied, In 
the presence of the people in the street who were 
looking on. My distress was great At evening 
prayers my father, who had been informed of my 
disgrace, dwelt in a solemn manner on the sin I 
had committed — the great crime of theft and lies. 
That was my first theft, and my last 

' I will now relate my artistic beginnings. When 
about seven years old I began to admire the signs 
painted over alehouses, constantly gazing up at 
them with great admiration. One day I made my 
first attempt to draw from nature. My attention 
had been frequently attracted to a pretty scene — it 
was a line of geese, sailing upon the smooth glassy 
water. I drew the geese upon my father's casting 
slate, all in procession, every one in profile. When 
my father looked at my performance he smiled, 
but when my mother cast her eyes upon it she 
praised me, and said, " Indeed, Jack, this is very 
like the geese." 

* I rubbed out that drawing, and, after dwelling 
upon the geese again, I drew them upon a larger 
scale, one behind the other, and again my mother 
praised me. Then I produced the same com- 
position a third time, adding more geese, but 



First Attempts to Draw. 23 

nothing new in the treatment Then my mother 
thought she had had enough of the geese, and 
said, " Suppose you change the subject, and try 
to draw a horse." After gazing long and often 
upon a horse, at last I ventured to commit him to 
the slate. I drew him in profile, all by memory. 
This effort delighted my mother still more. I 
stuck to the horse, as I had done to the geese, 
always repeating the same view, till my mother 
had had enough of that too. " Now, Jack," she 
said, " put a man upon his back." I went out, 
and carefully watched men en horseback, and, 
returning home, produced an equestrian figure. I 
never thought of copying from the object itself, but 
always, after looking at it, drew from recollection. 

' When I was nine years of age my father 
decided to join some Welsh people and emigrate 
to America. We arrived therefore at Liverpool 
to embark for the United States. But when my 
mother saw the great ships in the docks, she 
formed the most determined resolution never to 
put her foot in one of them. Accordingly my 
father was obliged to abandon his intention and 
settle down in Liverpool. A short time after I 
was put to a school there. 

' My attention was now drawn to the windows 



24 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

of the print shops, and daily did I return to gaze 
with wonder and admiration at the engravings 
exhibited in them. Soon I began to draw them. 
The following was my plan, for I had no money 
to purchase a print I fixed all my attention upon 
one figure only, and, when it was well impressed 
on my mind, I hastened home and there sketched 
down the general action — ^then returned again and 
again to the shop window, and corrected my copy 
till it was finished. I continued this sort of prac- 
tice for long — of course in the hours out of 
school — and this habit strengthened my memory 
wonderfully, so that I have throughout life re- 
tained the power, so important to an artist, of 
drawing from recollection. Whenever I have 
remarked any momentary action, whether in the 
street or in a drawing-room, I have been able, by 
impressing it on my mind at the moment, to 
sketch it a month after. 

* In the course of time I began to sell my 
drawings to the boys at school, which enabled me 
to purchase paper and colours. I made no profit, 
for my prices were small. There was a very 
amiable boy who was fond of me, and who was 
so amiable as always to admire my drawings. 
His father had presented him with a new prayer- 



Frontispiece to Prayer Book, 2 5 

book, beautifully bound ; this gift, with sixpence 
from his mother, was for good conduct at school. 
The boy said to me, " Gibson, you know how 
much I like your drawings ; if you will make me 
one, in colours, for the new prayer-book, I will 
give you the sixpence." At that time there was 
a fine print of Napoleon crossing the Alps, from 
David's picture, in one of the shop windows, 
which I had already copied in my peculiar way. 
I showed my copy to my patron ; he was charmed, 
and commissioned me to repeat the subject as a 
frontispiece to his prayer-book ! It was executed 
in bright colours, and he paid me the sixpence — 
the largest sum I had yet received for a work of 
art. 

* I had been warned by my schoolmaster not to 
draw during school hours. Notwithstanding this 
prohibition, I was discovered one day, by the sen- 
tinel making his rounds, drawing at the desk. 
He shouted out, ** Gibson is drawing ! " the 
master thundered in return, ** Bring Gibson up ! " 
the sentinel said to me, " Obey ! " and took me by 
the arm. I resisted violently. The master then 
ordered out reinforcements, and I soon received a 
castigation not to be forgotten — and' I never drew 
again in scliool. 



26 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

' There was a stationer s shop in Church Street, 
kept by Mr. Tourmeau. It was there I purchased 
my paper and colours. One day Mr. Tourmeau 
said to me, '* My lad, you are a frequent customer ; 
I suppose you are a painter ? " I answered with 
infinite self-consequence, " Yes, sir, I paint." He 
then told me to bring my drawings, and after 
saying something encouraging, asked me if I had 
ever seen an Academy drawing. I did not know 
what an Academy drawing meant ! The next 
day, for the first time, I saw drawings from the 
nude on coloured paper, in black and white chalk, 
done at the Royal Academy by Mr. Tourmeau. 
He kindly lent them to me to copy, and when I 
had made some progress, he added some small 
plaster casts from the antique, and I drew from 
them under his generous instructions. 

' The time arrived when I was to be put to 
some mode of earning my bread. The portrait 
and miniature painters required a premium with a 
pupil, which my father could not afford to give. 
At the age of fourteen I was bound apprentice 
to Messrs. Southwell and Wilson, cabinet-makers. 
After remaining there one year I became quite 
disgusted with my employment, and succeeded in 
persuading my masters to change my indenture 



Bound Apprentice. 2 7 

and bind me to wood-carving — that is, to orna- 
menting furniture. I was delighted at first with 
this occupation, and during my home hours kept 
up my practice of carving from casts. When I 
had been at the wood-carving for nearly a year I 

■s 

became acquainted with a person from London 
who was a flower-carver in marble : his works 
enchanted me, and I became greatly excited. He 
presented me to Messrs. Francis, who had marble 
works on Brownlow Hill. They employed a 
Prussian workman to model and execute small 
figures — his name was Liige — afterwards he be- 
came the head workman to Sir Francis Chantrey. 
No words can give an idea of the impression made 
on me by the models and works I saw there. In 
my leisure hours during the second year of my 
apprenticeship I modelled in clay, copying what 
casts I could procure. I soon began to feel the 
greatest contempt for my line of wood-carving, 
and I became very melancholy. One day I ven- 
tured to ask leave of Mr. Francis to copy in clay 
a small head of Bacchus by Mr. Llige, which 
enchanted me with its beauty. When finished I 
brought my copy with the original to show Mr. 
Francis. He confessed that the copy was so exact 
that he could hardly distinguish one from the other. 



28 Life of John Gibson. 

But, at the same time, he gave me to understand 
that, having paid a large price to the Prussian for 
all the models in his place, he could not allow 
them to be copied, and that he should lend me 
no more. Such an unexpected reverse of fortune 
fell upon my ardent soul like the chill of death. I 
left him in unutterable depression of spirits. I 
told all my sad story to the person who had intro- 
duced me to Mr. Francis. At that time I had 
also made my first attempt in marble ; it was a 
small head of Mercury, which I afterwards pre- 
sented to Mrs. Vose, wife of a physician in Liver- 
pool. 

* As Mr. Francis praised this attempt, the idea 
came into my mind to try and induce him to pur- 
chase my indenture from the cabinet-makers, and 
to serve the remainder of my seven years in the 
practice of sculpture. But my cabinet-makers 
refused to part with me on any terms ; I was, they 
said, the most industrious lad they ever had ; they 
even refused an offer of seventy pounds from the 
Messrs. Francis to give me up. I then fell upon 
a plan of emancipating myself I continued to 
attend regularly at the working hours, but I did 
no work. They remonstrated with me in vain — 
praised my former industry, appealed to my grati- 



Transfer of Indentures. 29 

tude for kindness; reminded me that they had 
often made me presents. I admitted that it was 
all true. They then told me that an apprentice 
might be imprisoned for neglecting his duty. I 
admitted that too. But my mind was made up — 
a sculptor and not a cabinet-maker I would be. 
" I will fight for it," said I to myself, "and rather 
serve the remaining years in prison than continue 
at this disgusting wood-carving." 

' Several days elapsed, and I kept up the fight, 
doing scarcely any work, though always regularly 
at my post At length my master flew into a pas- 
sion, called me an ungrateful scoundrel, and gave 
me a blow on the side of my head. It was with 
his open hand — not violently. I kept myself calm, 
and said with quiet determination, " I am quite 
prepared to go before the magistrate ; I have no- 
thing to say in my defence ; I have made up my 
mind to stay in prison — yes — for years." With so 
inflexible a martyr there was nothing to be done. 
At length the cabinet-makers were persuaded to 
accept the seventy pounds, and the happy day 
arrived when I found myself entered as an appren- 
tice for sculpture to the Messrs. Francis. 

* Now I was truly happy — modelling, drawing, 
and executing works in marble. After some 



30 Life of y ohn Gibson, 

months there came a tall, magnificent-looking old 
gentleman to the workshop ; his hair was white as 
snow, aquiline nose, thick brows ; and his manner 
was most benevolent It was William Roscoe. 
The object of his visit was to order a chimney- 
piece for his library at AUerton. My models and 
numerous drawings were soon placed before him, 
and he said many encouraging things to me. In 
a few days Mr. Roscoe returned, and settled with 
my master about the chimney-piece ; then turning 
to me, he said he wished me to make a basso- 
rilievo for the centre — not in marble, but in baked 
clay (terra cotta) — from a print which he brought 
with him. He added, " This print is of great 
value ; it is by Marc Antonio, from Raphael." It 
represented Alexander ordering Homer s " Iliad " 
to be placed in the casket taken from Darius — an 
excellent choice of subject for a library. The 
original fresco is in the Vatican, painted in chiaro- 
scuro. I executed the work, which gave satisfac- 
tion, and it is preserved at this time in the Liver- 
pool Institution. It is in a small room there, and 
over it is a portrait of Mr. Roscoe, and also one of 
myself painted at Rome by the late Mr. Geddes. 

' Mr. Roscoe showed me great kindness, and I 
was invited once a week to AUerton — there he 



William Roscoe, 3 r 

opened all his portfolios, containing engravings 
from the old masters, and original drawings for 
which he had paid great sums. Some of these 
fine drawings he advised me to copy, so that I 
might learn to sketch in the same masterly way. 
I imitated them as closely as I could — some 
were in red chalk, others in pen and bistre. I 
also copied a few of Luca Cambiasi's bold reed 
pen sketches. 

* Mr. Roscoe was a man of true taste. When I 
reflect on the past I often wonder at the accurate 
judgment he had acquired, when the minds of so 
many in England were astray about sculpture. 
Every design I now made was laid before him for 
his advice. The first thing he considered was 
whether the subject was expressed simply and 
clearly, whether the figures moved and acted 
naturally, with truth of character, and just expres- 
sion. Also he had great discrimination as to the 
selection of subjects. 

* Having thus free access to Mr. Roscoe s fine 
collections, I became well acquainted with the in- 
ventions of Michael Angelo and Raphael, and the 
genius of the former began to have an influence 
over me. Before I was nineteen I began to think 
of a large cartoon. The subject was the fall of 



32 Life of John Gibson, 

Satan and his angels. I first drew the design 
on a small scale, which went through numerous 
changes before I was satisfied. It included several 
groups and single figures foreshortened in various 
ways, and falling in every direction I could think 
of, and was executed in light and shade with pen 
and bistre. My mode of proceeding was this : I 
modelled the principal groups and figures in clay 
and hung them up with a string ; then taking the 
view I wanted, I got them in as far as possible 
from nature, and traced the drawing upon the 
cartoon until the design was complete. The upper 
figures were lighted naturally from above, and 
for the lower groups, supposed to be lighted by 
the flames of hell, I placed a lamp beneath my 
clay models, and thus got a correct and beautiful 
effect This laborious early performance is also 
favoured with a place in the Liverpool Institution. 
' About the same time I made some designs 
from Dante — one represents a figure nearly life 
size, tormented by a serpent. The action is diffi- 
cult, and I studied every part of it from nature. 
It is highly finished in black chalk. The cartoon 
is in the possession of Mr. Mayer, a goldsmith at 
Liverpool. When after an absence of twenty- 
seven years from England I saw these early works 



Early Works. 33 

again, I felt surprised that I could have done them 
in a town where there was no Academy, and no 
real art going on. For Mr. Francis, my new 
master, was no artist, nor had he anyone in his 
workshop who could teach me my profession, for 
he had dismissed the Prussian and put me in his 
place. He paid me six shillings a week, but he 
received good prices for my works/ 

To such works also the master gave his own 
name. For instance, in Sefton Church, seven 
miles from Liverpool, there is a bas-relief of 
considerable power, representing Mr. Blundell 
distributing alms, which has always been tradi- 
tionally assigned to a sculptor of the name of 
Francis. Gibson happened to visit this church 
late in life, in the company of friends, and recog^ 
nised a performance of his own. Many such 
are doubtless scattered about Liverpool and the 
neighbourhood under the name of Francis. To 
continue the biography. 

* I should have mentioned that before this time 
Mr. Roscoe had urged upon me the study of 
anatomy from the subject itself Knowing what 
an anatomist Michael Angelo was, I was most 
eager to begin. Dr. Vose of Liverpool was giving 
lectures on anatomy to young surgeons at that 

D 



34 Life of John Gibson. 

time, and he generously admitted me into his 
school gratis. With his instruction, and close 
devotion to the dissecting-room, I became well 
versed in the construction of the human body, and 
could detect at a glance any anatomical error in a 
work of art 

* My kind patron Mr. Roscoe gave me serious 
advice from time to time as to the course necessary 
to become a sculptor. He used to say, " No one 
can be a greater admirer of Michael Angelo than 
I am ; but, if you are to be a sculptor, I must 
remind you that there is but one road to excellence, 
and that is the road trodden for you by the Greeks, 
who carried the art to the highest perfection. 
Michael Angelo with all his powerful genius missed 
the purity of the Greeks. But it is their principles 
established from Nature which you should endea- 
vour to imbibe. The works of the ancients will 
teach you how to select the scattered beauties 
displayed in Nature. The Greek statue is Nature 
in the abstract, therefore when we contemplate 
those sublime works we feel elevated.'* 

* When I returned to England after an absence 
of twenty-seven years, and saw the works of British 
sculptors in London, I perceived that the influence 
of English painters had been injurious to them, 



The cTAguilar Family. 35 

leading them from a pure and elevated style to a 
soft, smooth prettiness, and pictorial treatment in 
attitude and arrangement which are not adapted 
for marble. If they had followed such advice as 
I received from Mr. Roscoe their works would 
have acquired a higher character and aim. 

' I began now to study all casts, gems, and 
prints from the antique that I could get at, and 
the result was that I modelled a Psyche, life size, 
under these new impressions.* She was repre- 
sented admiring a butterfly, and this attempt was 
greatly approved. But I could not pursue the 
study of the Beautiful without the participation of 
women. And this leads me to speak of a family 
with whom I then became acquainted. The family 
of Mr. Solomon d'Aguilar was one of the most 
polished in Liverpool. Mrs. d'Aguilar was the 
handsomest old lady I ever saw in my life ; she 
had been a celebrated beauty. The late General 
d'Aguilar was their son, and they had two 
daughters, Mrs. Lawrence and Mrs. Robinson.' 

The d'Aguilar family, by their hospitality and 
love of art, and by that gift of beauty to which 
Gibson was ever impressionable, played a con- 

* Exhibited at the first exhibition of modern works of art 
opened at Liverpool. 

D 2 



36 Life of yohn Gibson. 

spicuous part in his early life. With Mrs. Law- 
rence Gibson kept up an occasional correspondence, 
from which we shall make extracts further on. 
But his warmest friendship was contracted with 
Mrs. Robinson, who was a lady of great personal 
charms, and taste for the arts. She devoted her- 
self to the cultivation of Gibson's mind, making 
him acquainted with standard works in poetry, 
and leading him to a class of reading which greatly 
contributed to enrich his ideas. This lady died 
in 1829. 

* John Kemble used to come to Liverpool, and 
the d'Aguilars were his great friends. They 
brought him to see my works, and I felt much 
encouraged by all he said. He greatly admired a 
small figure of a seated Mercury which my brother 
Solomon was then modelling, and I can truly say 
that it was a remarkable work for a boy of sixteen. 
The figure is sitting, but you feel that Mercury 
will be up in a moment and lost in the skies. 
When the late Lord Colbome was in Holland he 
observed this little figure in bronze in a curiosity 
shop ; but the shopman could not tell him who 
the author was, or where it had been cast. He 
purchased it at once. Dining with his Lordship 
in 185 1 he showed me the Mercury, and I told 



yohn Kemble. 37 

him It was by my brother, and all about how John 
Kemble had admired it when still in the clay. 

'John Kemble, then performing in Liverpool, 
was requested by the d'Aguilars to sit to me for 
a small bust. I went to his lodgings for that 
purpose. As he sat, he held a looking-glass in his 
hand, looking at his own face and correcting me. 
He approved much of the bust, and so did Mrs. 
Siddons to whom he subsequently presented me, 
and so also did Sir Thos. Lawrence. I sold 
many casts of it to his numerous admirers. Mine 
is the only bust modelled from that great actor. 
During these sittings John Kemble conversed 
with me very freely and very kindly. I told him 
how much his acting and his statue-like appearance 
on the stage had impressed me — his agility of 
action in RoUa, and his sedate grandeur in Cato. 
I confessed that at times when witnessing pathetic 
parts I was harassed by my feelings, and yet 
ashamed of giving way to them. '* Ah ! my boy," 
he said, " never contend with your feelings. Better 
give way." One day speaking of expression he 
said that genius is expressed by the eye, feeling 
by the large dilating nostril, and temper by the 
mouth. I observed as he spoke that his own 
countenance illustrated this. He was a magnificent 



38 Life of John Gibson, 

man, with the grandest head I ever saw, a striking 
figure, and wonderfully expressive face. 

' As time advanced Mr. Roscoe consulted with 
his friends as to some plan of sending me to Rome, 
for he looked upon the Eternal City as the great 
University of Sculpture, both on account of its 
splendid collections, and of the great assemblage 
of artists from all parts of Europe. Such sug- 
gestions from him inflamed my soul with ambition. 
Rome was ever in my thoughts, and I became 
harassed with anxiety, often sleepless. " Mother," 
said I, ** last night I dreamt a dream (she could 
interpret dreams) — I dreamt that I was wandering 
in solitary meditation, when a great eagle darted 
down upon me, and took me up in the air. Higher 
and higher he flew with me over towns and rivers, 
till I lost sight of the earth, and I saw nothing but 
clouds. Fear was upon me, when the earth 
began to reappear and I felt myself descending. 
Presently I saw buildings below me, and soon the 
eagle alighted in the midst of a great city; and 
this, I said to myself in my dream, this is Rome^ 
" Jack," said my mother, after a deep thinking, 
** as sure as thou art now sitting before me, thy 
fate will carry thee over every difficulty to Rome." 
I must own that I had lost faith in the interpreta- 



Basso-rilievo of Psyche. 39 

tion of dreams, but I did not question my mother's 
powers in this instance. 

* I continued to practice my art upon those 
principles which Mr. Roscoe had advocated — all 
was Greek simplicity, and purity of form. The 
works of Flaxman in outlines now began to de- 
light me. I admired the beauty and purity of 
his female figures and the lofty character of his 
heroes. Although he formed his style upon the 
Greek vases, his designs are full of original con- 
ceptions. 

* I now made a drawing of Psyche carried by 
two Zephyrs, and afterwards modelled the design 
in basso-rilievo, and finished it very highly. Then 
I took courage and sent it to the Royal Academy 
Exhibition. This was my first work seen there. 
Mr. Flaxman knew nothing of me, but he looked 
on my basso-rilievo with such kindness that he 
obtained a conspicuous place for it near a window, 
with a beautiful light 

* One of the last works I executed, while still 
in the service of the Messrs. Francis, was for the 
late Sir John Gladstone, father of the eminent 
statesman, who at that time resided in Liverpool. 
He came to my master and ordered a costly 
chimney-piece. On the side I executed two female 



40 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

figures in alto-rilievo, which satisfied Sir John so 
well that he presented me with ten guineas. That 
chimney-piece, I have been told, was taken by 
him to Scotland. 

* All this time I was very restless and uneasy 
in mind ; for, in proportion as the charm of a pure 
classical style dawned more and more upon me, 
did I feel the longing to go forth into the great 
world of art, and to come in contact with rivals. 
For it is only by comparing ourselves with others 
that we advance and gain victories. In Liverpool 
I felt like one chained down by the leg, panting 
for liberation ; ever longing to join in the race for 
the green branch — the laurel crown. Meanwhile 
Mr. Roscoe's bank had failed ; my other friendsr 
were not rich, and the wealthy in Liverpool did 
not then concern themselves much about art 

'Early in the year 1817 I left Liverpool for 
London. Once London had been the goal of my 
ambition ; now my soul was all on fire for a higher 
flight. Golden Hope inspired me and pointed to 
the Capitol. I had a letter to Mr. Brougham 
(Lord Brougham) and to Mr. Christie the auc- 
tioneer, a man of classical learning and pure taste 
in art This gentleman examined my drawings, 
of which I took a great roll with me. To Mr. 



Works for Mr. Watson Taylor, 41 

Christie I was indebted for an introduction to 
Mr. Watson Taylor, then one of the most liberal 
patrons of art After looking at my drawings 
Mr. Watson Taylor expressed his desire that I 
should model a bust of himself. This I completed 
to his satisfaction and that of his lady, who pro- 
nounced it to be a more pleasing likeness than 
one lately modelled by Mr. Chantrey. They 
then requested me to execute the bust in marble. 
This was the first commission I received after 
leaving Liverpool. My success with Mr. Watson 
Taylor s bust led to an order to model one of 
Mrs. Watson Taylor. She was a nice quiet 
woman, and I did my best to do her justice. 
Then I had commissions from them for all the 
children in turn, ending with the baby — a little 
thing with no shape at all. 

* But the greatest favour of all on Mr. Watson 

Taylor s part was a commission to execute for 
him a bust of Mr. Roscoe. I therefore returned 
to Liverpool, and had the honour and pleasure of 
several sittings from my excellent patron. Sub- 
sequently the bust was executed in marble for 
Mr. Watson Taylor in Rome. I also made a repe- 
tition of it for myself, which, ten years later, I 
presented, as a tribute of gratitude, to the Liverpool 



42 Life of John Gibson. 

Royal Institution. After the model of Mr. Roscoe 
was completed I hastened back to London, bear- 
ing letters of introduction to Mr. Fuseli, to Mr. 
Flaxman, to Benjamin West, and others. From 
Mr. Flaxman I received much kindness. He 
inspected my drawings and complimented me 
upon them, and also on the Pysche carried by 
Zephyrs, which had been in the Exhibition. From 
him too I received the strongest encouragement 
to proceed to Rome, as the best school in Europe 
for a young sculptor. I also showed my drawings 
to Mr. Fuseli and to Mr. West — President of the 
Royal Academy — who said, " There is that in 
them which labour can never attain." I made 
also the acquaintance of Mr. Blake, who showed 
me his cartoons and complained sadly of the want 
of feeling in England for high art. His wife 
joined in with him ; she was very bitter upon the 
subject Mr. Chantrey I did not see, but went 
round his studio. Mr. Watson Taylor, however, 
talked to him about my plan of going to Rome, 
which Mr. Chantrey disapproved, saying that there 
was everything in London requisite for the educa- 
tion of a sculptor, and that I might go to Rome 
later. Mr. Watson Taylor inclined to this view 
himself, and promised to do all in his power to 



Determination to go to Rome. 43 

advance me in London. My means, it is true, 
were limited, and any prospect of increasing the 
sum of 1 50/. which my friends at Liverpool had 
got together for me was tempting; but when I 
remembered my dream of the eagle and my 
mother s prediction I resolved not to loiter too 
long on the way, but to trust to fortune and de- 
part One day therefore I informed Mr. Watson 
Taylor that the time was drawing near for me to 
start on my journey. He urged my staying to 
execute Mrs. Watson Taylor's bust and his own in 
marble, but I requested his permission to send on 
the models to Rome and execute them there. 
Still he thought that I might stay in London, till 
at length I said that go to Rome I would, if I 
went there on foot He remarked that I was 
very decided indeed. 



44 Life of y ohn Gibson, 



CHAPTER III. 

Departure for Rome — Madame Pasta — Canova^s Liberality — 
Introduced at CanovcCs Academy — Education of a Sculptor at 
Rome — "77/<? Sleeping Shepherd^* — Commissions from Duke of 
Devonshire and Sir George Beaumont — Happiness at Rome — 
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. 

* T LEFT England for Rome in September, 
■*• 1817. A gentleman whose acquaintance I 
had made in London, Mr. Bonomi, procured for 
me a letter of introduction to Mr. Bartolozzi, then 
residing in Paris with his daughter, Madame 
Vestris : she was ill in bed, and I did not see her, 
but he was remarkably kind to me, taking me 
about the place. I could not speak any language 
but English and Welsh ; the latter, however, was 
of no use to me in Paris. 

* In the course of a few days Mr. Bartolozzi 
found a Roman vetturino who was about to return 
to Rome, which was a fortunate circumstance for 
me. I was further so fortunate as to share the 
carriage with a young Scotchman of the name of 
Graham. This gentleman had a servant with him 
who spoke English, French, and Italian, and he 



Arrival in Rome. 45 

took care of me as well as of his master in the 
way of interpretation. There was also another 
vettura which kept company with us as far as 
Milan, and in that was Madame Pasta with her 
young husband and her mother/ 

We have often heard Mr. Gibson describe this 
grand and truly Italian lady, then just commen- 
cing her distinguished career ; how she would 
pour forth her glorious voice in snatches of song 
as they walked up and down the hills, and how 
she would occasionally exert it too in scolding her 
husband, * which,' he used to add, * impressed me 
with a profound conviction of the resources of the 
Italian language for such feminine purposes.' 

* When we arrived at Florence, my companion, 
Mr. Graham, remained there, and I proceeded on 
my way in the vettura, which had been joined by 
an Italian gentleman who spoke a little English. 

* On the 20th October, 1817, I arrived in Rome, 
and my mother s interpretation of my dream was 
fulfilled. 

* I had a letter to the Abb6 Hamilton, which I 
presented immediately, and found him a very 
good-natured old man. He volunteered to ac- 
company me to Canova, to whom I had letters 
from Mr. Fuseli, Lord Brougham, and General 



46 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

d'Aguilar. When the hour came I felt anxious 
and agitated at the thought of seeing the greatest 
living sculptor. We arrived at his studio, walked 
through rooms crowded with his scholars, and 
were soon in the presence of the great man, to 
whom the Abb6 presented me. He received me 
most kindly, and examined some drawings I had 
brought with me with great attention. Then he 
said, ** I wish you to come to me alone next 
Sunday morning, for I want to talk with you." 

*When Sunday morning arrived I repaired to 
the studio, where I found Canova surrounded with 
a crowd of young artists, some showing their 
designs, others talking to him. He gave me to 
understand that he should soon have done with 
these visitors ; and when they were gone he 
invited me into an inner room. There, in his very 
bad English, he began to explain that many 
young artists came to Rome with very small 
means, and that he assumed might be my case. 
He therefore requested me to allow him the gra- 
tification of assisting me with the means of prose- 
cuting my studies to the best advantage. " I am 
rich," he said ; " I am anxious to be of use to yow, 
and to forward you in your art as long as you stay 
in Rome." 



Canovas Kindness. 47 

' I was taken by surprise, and felt it difficult to 
find words to express my grateful feelings. It 
appears that General d'Aguilar in his letter had 
mentioned the limited nature of my means, and 
had requested Canova to put me upon the most 
economical mode of study. I tried to explain to 
him that my kind patron, Mr. Watson Taylor, 
had increased my means a little, and then I 
plucked up courage and asked whether I might 
venture to look to him for instruction, saying that 
it was my highest ambition to be his pupil, and to 
model in his studio. To all this Canova replied 
in the most encouraging terms, and told me to 
look to him for everything that might be in his 
power. 

* I need not say that this interview delighted 
me, while his gentle manners, his deep sonorous 
voice, and his very finely formed features, made 
an impression on me which time has never 
lessened. Dear generous master ! I see you be- 
fore me now. I hear your soft Venetian dialect, 
and your kindly wor^s inspiring my efforts, and 
gently correcting my defects. Yes, my heart still 
swells with grateful recollection of you. 

* He told me to make use of a few days to 
inspect the sights of Rome, but I answered that I 



48 Life of John Gibson. 

should be in his studio the next fnorning, and so 
I was. 

' Up to this period I had received instruction 
from no master, nor had I studied in any aca- 
demy. At my own request Canova allowed me 
to copy his fine Pugilist — the marble statue in the 
Vatican. I began with great zeal to model my 
copy from the cast in the studio. After I had 
worked at the clay for a few days, down it all fell ! 
It seems that my master had observed to his fore- 
man, Signor Desti, that my figure must fall ; " for 
you see," said he, " that he knows nothing of the 
skeleton work — but let him proceed, and when his 
figure comes down, show him how the mechanical 
part is done." So when my model fell, a black- 
smith was called in, and the iron work made, with 
numerous crosses of wood and wire. Such a pro- 
ceeding I had never before seen. One of his 
pupils then put up the clay upon the iron skeleton 
and roughed out the model before me, so that the 
figure was firm as a rock. After this I worked 
indefatigably on my copy.* 

' When it was finished my master said that he 
considered me competent to model at the Aca- 
demy from the life. There was the Academy of 

* Now in Mr. Penry Williams's possession. 



Canovas Academy.^ ^ 49 

St Luke's, and: there was also Canovas academy, 
to which he only admitted such as he thought 
promising, including students from all parts of 
Italy. The expense of this school was defrayed 
by the Emperor of Austria, but Canova attended 
it twice a week, overlooking and correcting the 
students, and received no remuneration for his 
trouble. 

* Canova introduced me himself into this aca- 
demy. At that time a youth of extraordinary 
beauty was sitting as a model. When his time of 
rest came, my master said to him, "alzatevi." Up 
sprang the youth. " L' Apollo Belvedere," said 
Canova ; and in a moment he had assumed the 
action and expression of the Apollo — the lofty air, 
the dilated nostril, and the slight disdain and 
anger of the mouth. It was perfect I spoke out 
my delight at the beauty and grace of the figure 
before us ; he was like the statue come to life. 
Canova said he believed a more beautiful youth 
did not exist. Again he cried out ** II Mercurio/' 
and like as with the touch of a wand the young 
man was in the spirited attitude of the Mercury of 
John of Bologna. Then, of his own accord, he 
assumed the position of some of Canovas own 
beautiful statues. 

E 



50 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

'I now began to model from the life in this 
school, and my master advised me to look fre- 
quently at the productions of my fellow-students 
there, from the beginning to the end of the work. 
I did so, and most improving it was to me. They 
were all very polite, and sorry that I did not 
understand Italian. But when I observed the 
power and experience of youths much younger 
than myself, their masterly manner of sketching 
in the figure and their excellent imitation of 
nature, my spirits fell many degrees, and I felt 
humbled and unhappy. How I regretted that I 
had not come to Rome much earlier in life. In 
this mood when I returned at night to my lonely 
lodgings I sighed deeply, and my gloomy thoughts 
flew back to the past — to those happy evenings 
of the readings with Mrs. Robinson — the books, 
the drawings, the quiet tea-table, the arranged 
flowers. 

* To return to my subject One of the great 
advantages I subsequently derived from residing 
in Rome was the listening to conversations on art, 
not only between Canova and Thorwaldsen, but 
between artists of talent from all countries. In 
Rome all the studios are open to each other, 
every man sees another's works, and holds free 



Sculptors in Rome. 5 1 

communion with him, giving and receiving advice, 
and carrying on the labour of art by a combination 
of minds. On my return to England how sur- 
prised was I to find that none of the sculptors 
visit each other in this way, nor does one sculptor 
consult another in the process of a work. This 
isolation is one reason I believe for the errors in 
public works, though some of them show talent 
and power. To advance sculpture in England it 
is necessary that the artists should come in contact 
with each other, and also, if possible, with artists 
from other countries. It may be said with truth 
that an Englishman does not require to leave his 
own land to become a poet, for he can gather to- 
gether the efforts of other and great minds in his 
own room. But it is different with the sculptor, 
who must know what others have done and are 
doing, hear their opinions, examine their works, 
and enlarge his perceptions by communion with 
others labouring in the same path. 

'Another great advantage found in Rome Is 
that art is more generally understood. There, 
any quack who puffs himself up is known to be a 
quack; while in England, art not being under- 
stood by the masses, men of very mediocre powers 
are constantly pushed forward and exalted as 

£ 2 



52 Life of John Gibson, 

geniuses, and the public are kept in ignorance. 
If there were any individuals of real judgment 
and taste who would point out the beauties or 
defects of certain works it would be very instruc- 
tive, but generally speaking the English are led 
by the newspapers, whose remarks are useless, or 
worse, to the artist in the sense of criticism. An 
illustration of this will be found in the following 
anecdote, which I know to be a fact A young 
man produced a work of a novel character in 
sculpture, which brought him into notice. He 
continued to work in England, and was then sent 
to Rome by his patrons, who, by his own account, 
and lest the sight of other works should interfere 
with his own new style of sculpture, laid a strict 
injunction on him not to enter a studio there. 
The young man gave a satisfactory proof of his 
incapacity and absence of all feeling for art by 
adhering strictly to these rules, refusing even to 
enter the studio of Thorwaldsen. He and his 
patrons must have looked upon sculpture as a 
plaything rather than as an art subject to rules 
which cannot be infringed. There can be no 
greater absurdity than to suppose that an inex- 
perienced youth should be able to invent a new 
style in sculpture ! It is only ignorance which 



First Work in Rome. 53 

attaches a stronger interest to novelty than to 
truth ; the Greeks had very dififerent ideas. 

* Canova now gave me to understand that the 
sooner I began to model a figure, life size, of my 
own invention, the better. He therefore advised 
me to take a studio, and his foreman found one 
close to his own, so that he was the better able 
to superintend me. 

* Among the clay sketches which I had been 
composing was one of a sleeping boy, which 
Canova suggested my executing life size. I set 
to work, and, as it advanced, he often came and 
corrected me, and made remarks which were in- 
valuable to me. I called the subject " The Sleep- 
ing Shepherd," putting a crook by his side, and I 
copied nature pretty closely, for the figure admitted 
of the imitation of individual life. Soon a higher 
class of subject began to haunt me, and I showed 
my master sketches of several groups ; but he 
advised me to keep to a single figure, until I had 
acquired more knowledge in style, and experience 
of form. He was quite right, for it is a very 
common mistake with young artists to begin with 
groups before they have conquered the difficulties 
of the figure. Although the style of Canova was 
not altogether pure, his judgment and advice were 



54 Life of J ohn Gibson. 

excellent. He used often to say to me, " Take 
care not to copy my works, study the Greeks." 
He also always advised me to go frequently to 
the studios of other sculptors, '* and especially go 
as often as you can to that of Thorwaldsen, he is 
a very great artist" 

* In the year 1819 I began to model my group 
of Mars and Cupid, seven feet high, and, having 
fine living models before me, worked upon it with 
great spirit I went often to contemplate the 
Greek statues, not actually copying them, which 
Canova did not encourage, but drawing outlines 
from them in order to learn the delicacy and 
beauty of their lines. I also drew legs and arms 
and torsos separately and rather large. I worked 
many months at my Mars and Cupid, and one 
day, when it was much advanced, I heard a knock- 
ing at my studio door ; I opened it, and in came a 
tall, fine-looking young man. He said, "The 
Duke of Devonshire — Canova sent me to see 
what you are doing." I felt a little confused, but 
when I calmed down I got on well with his grace. 
After examining Mars for some time he asked me 
what might be the cost of the group in marble. 
I answered that, not having experience, I could 
not tell. " Think," said he, " and tell me." After 



First Commission in Rome, 55 

pondering a little I ventured to name five hundred 
pounds; *'but perhaps I have said too much." 
" Oh no, not too much," said the Duke. He then 
commissioned me to execute the group in marble 
at the price named. I was delighted, and when 
he was gone ran over to Canova and told him all. 
My master was greatly pleased, but, when I men- 
tioned the price which I had proposed at random 
to the Duke, he expressed his regret that I had 
not consulted him first, for he considered that the 
expense of marble and workmanship would alone 
cost at least the five hundred pounds. This proved 
to be the case ; for when the work was completed 
it had cost me five hundred and twenty pounds, 
reckoning nothing for the time I had spent upon 
the clay, and subsequently upon the marble. 

* This group of Mars and Cupid is at Chats- 
worth, and it was the first commission I received 
at Rome. 

' At that period — 1820 — Sir Francis Chantrey 
came to Rome. Canova mentioned me to him, 
and he paid me a visit in my little studio in the 
Via Fontanella. He asked me how long I had 
been in Rome. I said three years. He then 
observed, " One three years is enough to spoil 
you, or any other man." I asked him whether he 



56 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

thought I was in a bad school, to which he made 
no reply. 

*On the 13th of October, 1822, the great and 
good Canova died at Venice. Many were those 
who suffered by his loss. To the needy student 
he liberally gave money, and to all valuable in- 
struction. I received constant lessons from him 
for five years.' 

It was nineteen years afterwards — May, 1841 — 
that Gibson wrote as follows to Mrs. Sandbach, of 
Canova and Thorwaldsen : * May I not be proud 
to have known such men, to have conversed with 
them, watched all their proceedings, heard all their 
great sentiments on art ? Is it not a pleasure to 
be so deeply in their debt for instruction ? Pos- 
terity will do us all justice.' Of Thorwaldsen he 
speaks more, as we shall see, further on. 

* In 1821 I began to model my group of Psyche 
and the Zephyrs, which Canova encouraged me to 
execute. In that winter — 182 1-2— Sir George 
Beaumont came to Rome. Canova sent him to 
see my clay group, which was much advanced, 
and the old gentleman often came, watching my 
progress. At last he asked what would be the 
price of the work in marble. This time I was 
more cautious. I said I would put a moderate 



Duke of Devonshire — Sir George Beaumont. 57 

price on it, and let him know. So when he next 
came I was prepared, and named seven hundred 
pounds, upon which, to my great delight, he 
ordered the group in marble. Canova and Sir 
George sent most of the visitors then in Rome to 
my studio, and Sir George and Lady Beaumont 
often invited me to their house. That winter also 
the Duke of Devonshire returned to Rome, and 
came to see what I was doing. Among my draw- 
ings done in Liverpool was one I had given to 
Mrs. Robinson, representing the meeting of Hero 
and Leander. I had a repetition of the drawing 
with me in Rome, and it was a favourite with 
Canova, who advised me to model it I asked 
him whether it was an objection that the face of 
the woman was hid upon the shoulder of her lover 
— not seen — and he said that it was not, for it was 
most natural so. " It is full of passion," he said, 
" and you must make a basso-rilievo from it" I 
followed his advice, and took the greatest pains 
with the model. The Duke of Devonshire now 
observed it in my studio, and told me that Canova 
had mentioned it to him. So he ordered it in 
marble, and it is now at Chatsworth. 

* I was much elated by the commission Sir 
George Beaumont had given me, for he was 



58 Life of John Gibson. 

reputed one of the best judges of art in England. 
He evidently did not think like Sir Francis 
Chantrey that Rome would spoil me. No — Rome, 
above all other cities, has a peculiar influence 
upon and charm for the real student; he feels 
himself in the very university of art, where it is 
the one thing talked about and thought about 
Constantly did I feel the presence of this influ- 
ence. Every morning I rose with the sun, my 
soul gladdened by a new day of a happy and 
delightful pursuit ; and as I walked to my break- 
fast at the Caffe Greco and watched with new 
pleasure the tops of the churches and palaces gilt 
by the morning sun, I was inspired with a sense 
of daily renovated youth, and fresh enthusiasm, 
and returned joyfully to the combat, to the in- 
vigorating strife with the difficulties of art Nor 
did the worm of envy creep round my heart when- 
ever I saw a beautiful idea skilfully executed by 
any of my young rivals, but constantly spurred on 
by the talent around me I returned to my studio 
with fresh resolution. 

' I had for some time been intending to make a 
statue of the very finely formed youth to whom I 
have alluded at the academy, and decided to 
make a figure of Paris from him. I began it in 



Lord George Cavendish — Mr. Haldimand. 59 

1 8 1 9, and Mr. Watson Taylor hearing of my pro- 
gress at Rome commissioned me to execute it for 
him. The progress of this work was much de- 
layed by the marble turning out defective ; I 
therefore procured a new block and began it over 
again in 1824. In that year also Lord George 
Cavendish came to Rome, and visited my studio. 
He admired my Sleeping Shepherd-boy, and 
eventually ordered it in marble. I find by a letter 
from Lord George that the statue arrived in 
London in November 1825. 

In May 1826 Mr. Haldimand came to Rome. 
I was then engaged in modelling a group of three 
figures, representing the youth Hylas surprised 
by the nymphs at the fountain. He seemed much 
taken with it, and before he left Rome honoured 
me by ordering it in marble. Mr. Haldimand 
afterwards changed his residence from England to 
Geneva. From the latter place he wrote to me 
signifying his desire to be allowed to relinquish 
the group he had ordered. This he did on very 
liberal terms. I afterwards sold it to the late 
Mr. Vernon, whose collection by his bequest has 
become public property. 

' In the same winter — 1826 — ^the late Sir Watkin 
Williams Wynn came to Rome. Having heard 



6q Life of John Gibson. 

that I was a native of Conway he made up his 
mind that I should execute a work for him, and 
that it should be an eagle in marble. As he made 
this discouraging proposition we stood before my 
group of Psyche borne by the Zephyrs, of which 
he expressed great admiration. But what could I 
think of his admiration when he added, " If you 
take away the Psyche and put in her place a time- 
piece, it will make a capital design for a clock." 
When I found him thus beginning to change my 
compositions according to his own taste, I lost all 
hopes of him. He said, " Then you don't care 
about doing an eagle for me ? " I replied, " No, 
Sir Watkin, that is out of my way." I then 
directed his attention to a model of Cupid draw- 
ing his bow, which I was then designing. He 
asked me whether I would like to do that for him 
better than the eagle. I replied that I certainly 
should, and so it was settled. The old gentle- 
man and his sister. Miss Williams Wynn, were 
exceedingly kind to me during their stay in 
Rome. 

' On May 12th, 1826, 1 had the honour of being 
elected an honorary member of the Pontifical 
Academy at Bologna. 



Psyche and Zephyrs. 6 1 

' In the year 1827 my group of Psyche and the 
Zephyrs was exhibited at the Royal Academy. 
This took place after the death of Sir George 
Beaumont, who died without having seen it' 



62 Life of yohn Gibson. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Preference for Rome over London — Elected Member of St, Lukis 
Academy — Thorwaldsen and his Danish Baroness — Camuccini 
— ^^ Love disguised as Shepherd^'' — Election as Associate to 
Royal Academy — " The Hunter and Dog^' — The Streets of 
Rome — The Aurora — Michael Angelo — Classical Costume, 

ABOUT this time Gibson's friends began to 
urge upon him the expediency of returning 
to England, where the death of Flaxman and the 
quietude of Chantrey, who had made his fortune, 
left an opening in the ranks of sculptors. Mr. 
Watson Taylor especially drew his attention to 
these facts, adding, * But you must be the best 
judge whether Gibson of Rome or Gibson of 
London would be the more considerable per- 
sonage/ * I had at this time been ten years at 
Rome. I felt that by my progress in the race 
which I was running I had left some of my young 
rivals (Italians) behind me. As I advanced my 
ambition for fame only became stronger and 
stronger. " Go to London ?" thought I ; " No — 
what is local fame ? If I live I will try for more 
than that I may fail — yes — but Rome shall be 



kSV. Lukes Academy. 63 

my battle-field, where I am surrounded by the 
most powerful competitors. In England my life 
would be spent in making busts and statues of 
great men in coats and neckties ; here I am em- 
ployed upon poetical subjects which demand the 
exercise of the imagination, and the knowledge 
of the beautiful. My countrymen have often 
observed to me that in England I might become 
a rich man — my reply has always been that I 
have no use for wealth, for my wants are very 
few, and my greatest happiness is the study of 
my art" 

' In the year 1829 Camuccini, the historical 
painter, suggested to Thorwaldsen to propose to 
the Academy of St Luke's to elect me as a 
member. The sculptor Massimiliano had died, 
and his place was to be filled. Thorwaldsen and 
Camuccini worked hard to have me chosen in 
his room. The white balls were more numerous 
than the black ones, and I was elected Resident 
Academician of merit 

* It is time for me to acknowledge the great 
obligations I owe to the late Cavaliere Thor- 
waldsen. He, like Canova, was most generous in 
his kindness to young artists, visiting all who 
requested his advice. I profited greatly by the 



64 Life ofyohn Gibson. 

knowledge which this splendid sculptor had of his 
art On every occasion when I was modelling a 
new work he came to me, and corrected whatever 
he thought amiss. I also often went to his studio 
and contemplated his glorious works, always in 
the noblest style, full of pure and severe sim-^ 
plicity. His studio was a safe school for the 
young, and was the resort of artists and lovers of 
art from all nations. The old man's person can 
never be forgotten by those who saw him. Tall 
and strong — he never lost a tooth in his life — he 
was most venerable looking. His kind counte- 
nance was marked with hard thinking, his eyes 
were grey, and his white locks lay upon his 
broad shoulders. At great assemblies his breast 
was covered with orders.' 

There is something which lifts us above this 
scheming and pushing world when we consider 

• 

Rome at the time when these three remarkable 
mien — Canova the Venetian, Thorwaldsen the 
Dane, and Gibson the Welshman — reigned thus 
harmoniously together. Doubtless the high nobility 
of tone in this respect was given by the gentle 
Canova who reigned at first alone, and hailed 
every worthy rival in his art as a friend. One 
would fain seek the solution of this edifying 



Tkorwaldsen. 65 

spectacle In that devotion to art whence en- 
nobling influences are perhaps oftener expected 
than found. Thorwaldsen, like Gibson, as we 
have hinted before, showed a greater sympathy 
with the genius of antique art than did their 
softer southern brother. Both especially stand 
unrivalled in that Shibboleth of the true sculptor 
— ^basso-rilievo — which Canova never successfully 
disputed with them. It is said of Thorwaldsen 
that, on first coming to Rome, where he was sent 
and well nigh starved upon a small allowance 
from the Copenhagen Academy, for three years, 
he wandered about among the statues of gods 
and heroes like a man in a dream. He was 
all life long like a man in a dream, caring for 
nothing beyond his art, though adored by his 
countrymen — in which all Germans are reckoned 
— ^ffeted by the great, and receiving his full share 
of caressing interest and flattery from the softer 
sex who think that genius especially demands 
their care. 

There are passages and descriptions regarding 
the great Danish sculptor in Gibson's letters to 
Mrs. Sandbach which we cannot do better than 
give here, though anticipating the narrative in 
point of date. Mrs. Sandbach had also con- 

F 



66 Life ofyohn Gibson. 

tributed her share of incense in an ode which is 
subjoined."'^ After a residence in Rome of forty- 

* Sons of art ! in joyful lay 
Proclaim aloud a festive day ! 
Let the songs of triumph sound 
Through the classic air around ; 
Behold Thorwaldsen comes ! 
Back to the ancient home 

Of his great art, 
Behold the master comes ! 
Again he enters Rome, 
No more to part 

See he comes, with honours crown'd, 
Rich in fame, adored, renown'd ! 
Time with gentle hand has shed 
Silvery tokens o'er his head ; 

Yet from his native shore 

He bends his steps once more 
To southern clime. 

Pour, Sons of Art ! then pour 

O'er the propitious hour 
A strain sublime. 

The glorious * City of the Soul' 
Is the sculptor's destined goal; 
His adopted country, where 
He may breathe a native air. 
Shall his free spirit own 
A mortal birth alone ? 

No ! 'tis divine. 
Genius has raised a throne. 
And bid him sit thereon. 

Rome ! he is thine. 

Apollo ! tune thy sleeping lyre, 

And touch the chords with raptured fire ; 

Spirit of beauty ! join the song. 

And pour the echoing notes along. 

He who has worshipped thee 

Thy votary still shall be ; 



Thorwaldsen. 67 

one years Thorwaldsen had paid a visit to his 
native land in 1838, and there reaped the ovation 
which the glory his fame shed upon it merited. 
But he had also escaped from the jealous arms 
of the Fatherla,nd and had returned to the home 
of his adoption, though, as the sequel proved, not 
for long. Although once more in Rome, Danish 
fetters were upon him. A countrywoman of his 
own — a Baroness von Stampe — known as his 
generous hostess during the three years he had 
spent in Denmark, accompanied him to Rome. 
She was devoted, resolute^ and middle-aged ; and 
while Thorwaldsen had, as he thought, been the 
means of bringing her to Rome, she intended 
to be the means of taking him back to Copen- 
hagen. For this end she laboured with truly 
feminine ingenuity. As it was impossible, by 
any defects in domestic arrangements, to render 
Thorwaldsen uncomfortable — ^for he was the most 
disorderly and untidy of men — she set about to 



Then shalt thou honour him, and twine 
A chaplet for his brow benign 
Of fadeless hue. 
Rise to meet him, 
Haste to greet him. 
Give him welcome home ; 
Sons of Art ! with one glad heart 
Welcome Thorwaldsen home ! 

F 2 



68 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

make him too much the reverse, by intro- 
ducing reforms in his own slatternly establish- 
ment, for which he had little relish and less 
gratitude. 

Gibson gives an amusing account in a letter to 
Mrs. Sandbach (4th December 1841) of a visit he 
paid at this time to the grand old man. 
. ' Your letter containing the corrected ode on 
Thorwaldsen's return came in time, as I had not 
given him the first one. . . . On Sunday morn- 
ing I doubled up the ode and placed it in your 
little volume of poems. I then went to Thor- 
waldsen, not having seen him for weeks. He was 
ill. After waiting a little I was told by the maid 
to proceed on. I had never seen a maid-servant 
there before, and as I went through the rooms I 
observed order and cleanliness which were equally 
as strange. The Baroness met me — Thorwald- 
sen's countrywoman — who has come from Copen- 
hagen with him. He had brought her before to 
my studio, and she welcomed me gladly, and con- 
ducted me to his bedroom, where she sat at her 
needlework.* " Ha ! I am so glad to see you," 
said he, giving me both hands. Nothing could 

* It is usual with Lutheran ladies to carry on the same occu- 
pations on Sundays as on week-days. 



Thorwaldsen, 69 

be more benign. We sat down three together — 
the Baronessa, the old Cavaliere, and myself. 
There was not only reform in all the rooms, but 
the old man himself was made new. A new green 
velvet cap, beautifully worked and ornamented — a 
superb dressing-gown — Turkish slippers — his large 
person — strong deep expression — his silvery hair, 
his glittering gold earrings — he looked like a 
grandee of Persia; no longer the careless, clay- 
bedaubed Thorwaldsen, in the midst of confusion. 
What meddling creatures women are ! thought I. 
" Gibson," said he, " I am ill, and these doctors 
torment my life out Here is a blister on my 
breast, and one on my arm, you see. I have no 
patience with them. Illness is come now upon 
me. Ha ! it is old age !" He drooped his head, 
closed his fist, compressed his lips, and there was 
a dead silence. Said I, " Cavaliere ! during your 
absence from Rome I had the pleasure of bringing 
to your studio a patron of mine, with his lady. 
She is a poetess, and a great admirer of your 
works. My Hunter is for him, and she has 
written this ode on your return to Rome. I pre- 
sent it to you ; she does not think it worthy, but 
I hope you will give it a place among your papers." 
The Baroness said, " Is it in English ?" and instantly 



70 Life of John Gibson. 

got It out of his hand, and to my surprise began 
to read it : and after reading on said, " Oh ! Thor- 
waldsen, I will translate all this poetry into our 
own language/' Said I, " She has written verses 
on his Christ — here they are," Then I gave her 
the little book, and she read and read, here and 
there, and then I offered to lend her the book to 
read at her leisure. He was very silent, and I 
said, " My friend is pretty." He smiled and said, 
"Bella?'' "Bellina," said I. The Baronessa 
laughed and said, " Truly there is beauty in the 
poetry." I, did not dare to say that you were 
young too, for the Baroness is at least fifty. She 
speaks French and Italian very well, and is very 
rich, and has taken a sort of enthusiastic attach- 
ment to Thorwaldsen, and is with him ever and 
everywhere. Her husband is here, but I have not 
seen him. It was at her villa that Thorwaldsen 
designed and modelled several works for his King 
during the three years he was absent He is 
entirely under the power of this lady now. She 
writes all his letters, attends to all his business, 
regulates his domestic affairs. They say here 
that he will never be free again, and I am very 
sorry to tell you what she said to Mr. Benjamin 
the other day, that she intends taking Thorwald- 



Thorwaldsen. 71 

sen back to Copenhagen never more to return to 
Rome, and that the King will send two frigates 
for all his works in his studio. If it were not for 
this lady he would end his days in Rome among 
his enemies and friends. 

Vlt is now ten days since this visit, and last 
night I had the pleasure of meeting him at dinner 
at Lady Braye's — ^^pretty well recovered, I said, 
" I hope you will never go back to your own 
country, but spend your life at Rome among us." 
He drooped his head, and did not say one word.' 

Again, in a letter to Mrs. Sandbach (January 25, 
1842), * Thorwaldsen was here a few days ago 
with his Baroness. She brought me back your 
little volume, and said flattering things. He, 
looking at your bust, said, " Who is this ?" I told 
him, and then turning to her he remarked, *' You 
see at once that this is a head of talent" It is 
lucky you are not here just now, for I fear you 
would be flirting with Thorwaldsen, and she would 
be jealous of you, and I should be jealous of him, 
and your husband would settle us both. He said 
to me, ** You should go to England and take the 
place of Chantrey." Said I, " In which place do 
you think I could produce the best works — ^in 
Rome or in London ?" " Oh ! in Rome, Rome," 



72 Life of John Gibson. 

said he. " Then why should I go to London ?" 
** To make a great fortune/' said he. " But fame 
IS my ambition, not a fortune. I think, Cavaliere, 
that no one can produce works for lasting fame 
out of Rome." Here the Baroness jumped up, 
with fire flashing from her bright black eyes. 
" I differ from you," she said. '* Thorwaldsen 
modelled in his own country as fine things as he 
has done in Rome. Rome is a place to learn in." 
He interrupted her and said, ** Ah ! we are always 
learning." .... The small model of the Aurora 
stood by, and he looked at it long, considering it. 
And I, with the feeling and submission of a scholar 
to a great and venerable master, said, " I pray you 
to examine it for me, and as usual say at once if 
it be worthy or not to be done in large." His 
sentiments were most encouraging. " By all means 
do it full size," said he.' 

The lady's course did not run smooth. A few 
months later (May 7, 1842) Gibson thus reports. 
' Thorwaldsen has rebelled against his Baroness — 
thrown away the carpets — ^you never saw such 
disorder, Some ladies whom I presented to him 
yesterday were amazed at his dirty appearance. 
He has declared that nothing shall induce him to 
go back with her to Copenhagen, This conduct 



Camuccini. 73 

altogether threw her ill. She would see no one 
for days. Now she has taken him in hand again, 
and goes about with him as before.' After this 
Thorwaldsen's doom was sealed. A lady of such 
resolution (and such a name) was not easily baffled. 
She carried him off in the October of 1842, and 
very probably did the best for him in the end. 
He always believed he should return to Rome, but 
paralysis seized him, and he died in Copenhagen 
in 1 844, at seventy-three years of age. 

To return to Gibson's memoir of himself. 
* I also had the advantage of the friendship of the 
late Baron Camuccini — then the first historical 
painter in Italy. I always said he would have 
made a greater sculptor than painter. Many of 
his best works have great power of composition 
and fine drawing. He had the most correct judg- 
ment and pure taste of any foreign painter I have 
known. Sculptors in general do not allow that 
painters are good judges in their art At a very 
early period Camuccini began to teach me that 
unity of parts which is necessary throughout the 
figure, and this to me was not so easy a matter ; 
but in the course of time I felt a more acute per- 
ception of that quality which is so perfect in the 
works of the Greeks 



74 Life of John Gibson. 

I have spoken of my statue of the Sleeping 
Shepherd purchased by Lord George Cavendish. 
He showed it to Lord Yarborough, and wrote to 
inform me that his lordship desired to have a 
graceful female statue by my hand. At that time 
I was modelling the figure of a nymph, seated ; 
while arranging her sandal her attention is drawn 
off, which gives a momentary suspense to her 
occupation. Her form is slender and very youth- 
ful. I enclosed a slight outline in a letter, and the 
result was that Lord Yarborough ordered it to be 
executed. Owing to my various occupations I 
had the nymph for six years in hand. It was 
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830. 

* In the same year Mrs. Dudley North, sister 
to Lord Yarborough, came to Rome. She desired 
to raise a statue to the memory of her husband, 
the late Dudley North. After seeing my works 
she gave me the order to execute the statue. She 
had brought with her a cast from a bust of him 
by NoUekens, so I had no difficulty about the 
likeness. I modelled the figure seated in a chair. 
This was my first portrait statue. It was lost at 
sea, but having been insured Mrs. Dudley North 
commissioned me to reproduce it In that year also 
I modelled a figure of Flora for Lord Durham. 



Cupid disguised as Shepherd. 75 

* Taking up the " Aminta " of Tasso, my ima- 
gination was caught by this passage in the Pro- 
logue : 

* Chi crederk che sotto umane forme 
E sotto queste pastorali spoglie 
Fosse nascosto un Dio ! non mica un Dio 
Selvaggio, o della plebe degli Dei, 
Ma tra grandi Celesti il pih possente, 
Che fa spesso cader di mano a Marte 
La sanguinosa spada, ed a Nettuno^ 
Scotitor della terra, il gran tridente, 
E le folgori eteme al sommo Giove. 
In quest* aspetto, certo, e in questi panni, 
Non riconoscerk si di leggiero 
Venere madre me, suo figlio Amore.' 

This gave me the idea of modelling Love dis- 
guised as a Shepherd, in his Greek hat and little 
cloak. The potent god, while slily concealing 
behind his back the arrow of soft tribulations, 
advances his right hand as if to inspire con- 
fidence, and assumes an air of modesty and 
timidity. Below the edge of his mantle behind 
are just seen the tips of his folded wings/ 

This statue of Cupid disguised as a Shepherd 
was executed for Sir John Johnstone and ex- 
hibited at the Royal Academy. The little God 
made, however, * no impression upon the hearts of 
the daily-paper critics.' Nevertheless, he became 
a favourite, and was repeated in marble seven 



76 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

times. One replica went to Russia, others to 
America. 

* There appeared in Rome a boy of twelve 
years old of most extraordinary beauty of face 
and figure, and whilst painters and sculptors were 
contending for him I also availed myself of so 
remarkable a model. I considered the idea of a 
statue of Cupid — this time nude. I represented 
him caressing a butterfly upon his breast, while 
with his right hand he is drawing forth an arrow 
to pierce it I called it " Love tormenting the 
Soul." I spent three months upon the clay model, 
working almost constantly. I afterwards exe- 
cuted it in marble for Lord Selsey, and repeated 
it subsequently for Mr. Yates of Liverpool, and 
for Mr. Holford. I look upon this statue as one 
of my best works.' Gibson was fully persuaded 
that the little God appeared bodily to him on this 
occasion, and has left a description of the inter- 
view, which draws too much upon the marvellous 
for insertion here. The gist of their conversation, 
however, was that the God of Love directed the 
sculptor to colour his statue. 

* My next was a figure of Proserpine stooping 
to gather flowers in the fields- of Enna. She 
kneels on one knee, and while plucking a violet 



Visit to Pompeii. jy 

looks round in surprise and alarm at the approach 
of Pluto. She is about to spring up from her 
knees and fly. During the modelling of this 
statue I was much annoyed by a young English- 
man who ran away with my beautiful model, and 
carried her off to England. This statue I exe- 
cuted in marble for Mr. Ablett of Llanbedr Hall 
in North Wales, and finally repeated it for Dwar- 
kamuth Tagore in Calcutta, where, according to 
his account, it excited great attention/ 

These examples help to show how constantly 
Gibson lived in the antique world. Only in that 
atmosphere did he seem to breathe freely and 
happily. A letter addressed to his friend Sir 
Charles Eastlake, after visiting Pompeii for the 
first time, is quite in place here. (Rome, July i, 
1 83 1.) * I need not tell you my very excited feel- 
ings on walking for the first time along the streets 
of Pompeii. How many lovely girls, I thought to 
myself, have pressed with their gold-sandalled 
feet these very stones we tread on! Who can 
enter these beautifully painted rooms and not see 
the lady of the house seated in the midst of her 
family — her beautiful daughters around her — one 
playing oa the lyre, her gold-snaked wrist grace- 
fully moving to the sound, others arranging their 



78 Life ofyohn Gibson. 

gold fillets and peplum tipped with golden drops 
— another waving her iQaf-formed fan. I never 
sat so familiarly in company with the ancients 
before.' 

Although the classic subjects and character of 
Gibson's works were then, as since, much attacked 
by the London periodical press, yet the Royal 
Academy was not slow in rendering him justice. 
In 1833 he was elected Associate of this body, and 
three years later full member. These distinctions 
Gibson was pleased to think had been in some 
measure prompted by his early friend and long 
fellow-resident in Rome, Sir Charles Eastlake, to 
whom he thus expresses his simple, upright feel- 
ings. (March 1836.) *To be deeply indebted to 
you is to me happiness, not a burthen of which I 
could wish to rid myself The return which I am 
sure would be most agreeable to you, and which I 
shall always endeavour to make, is to meet in 
every sense of the word the expectations of the 
Academy to which I have now the honour to 
belong in my own country.' 

Gibson was now at the very zenith of his powers. 
With a growing fame, many friends, a loving bro- 
ther, an absence of all domestic cares, a world of 
ancient art and of living beauty around him, and all 



His Hunter and Dog. 79 

united in that Paradise of the artist — Rome — his 
life may be said to have been one of almost ideal 
felicity. But it became happier and fuller still. 
To return to his journal. 

* In the year 1838 t:ame to Rome Mr. Henry 
Sandbach of Liverpool, and his lady. She was 
the granddaughter of William Roscoe, my early 
patron and best friend. Their stay during the 
whole winter gave them ample opportunities of 
enjoying Rome, its antiquities and arts, and me 
an opportunity of contemplating the talent and 
genius of this descendant of my patron. Besides 
being a poet, I soon perceived that Mrs. Sand- 
bach had peculiar feeling and taste for my own 
art Accordingly all my compositions on paper 
as well as those in clay I used to lay before her. 
One of these models became the favourite both 
with Mr. Sandbach and his lady. It was that of a 
hunter and his dog. The idea was taken from an 
incident in the street My eye had been caught 
by a big boy holding a dog by the collar at the 
moment the animal was about to fly at an object 
In this I saw a composition which impressed me. 
I carried it off in my memory, and made a small 
model in clay. It was ordered by Mr. Sandbach 
to be executed the size of life. This statue I 



8o Life of y ohn Gibson. 

studied with great care, being anxious to make it 
my best work.* It is now in Mr. Sandbachs 
house on his estate in North Wales.' 

This illustrates that habit of the observation of 
action and posture which Oibson early formed, 
and which found delightful and incessant exercise 
in his Roman life. * Besides the study of the 
human form the true and diligent artist must care- 
fully watch the movements of nature. These are 
of the greatest importance. By such observation 
he becomes original, and acquires simple, graceful, 
and natural action. The streets of Rome are in 
this respect a real academy. The inhabitants of 
warm climates are more free in their movements 
than those of cold countries. It was among them, 
in all the circumstances of their life, from the most 
pathetic to the most trifling, that the sculptor of 
the Dying Gladiator, and of the boy taking the 
thorn out of his foot, found these statues. It was 
there Praxiteles saw his young faun leaning against 
the trunk of a tree, and the Cupid bending his bow. 
It was among them that the Discobolus of Myron, 
and the same beautiful figure by Naucides were 
seen in living motion — ^with many other actions 

* There can be little doubt that this is Gibson's finest work in 
the round. It was in the Great Exhibition of 1851. 



The Wounded Amazon, 8i 

which live equally in antique sculpture and in the 
every-day life of a southern people. I had frequently 
noticed women and girls in the streets stopping 
suddenly and turning round, looking backward 
over their shoulder at their heel — at the same time 
drawing their dress a little up. This action is 
always very graceful. One day I made a sketch 
in clay of it, and was pleased with the effect. Day 
after day I puzzled my brain for a subject to suit 
my sketch — all in vain ! All of a sudden the idea 
of a wounded Amazon struck me. Modifying the 
attitude I made my Amazon lifting up her tunic 
with her left hand, and stooping a little to look at 
a wound she has received on the outside of her 
thigh — her heel is raised whilst the toes still touch 
the ground, and with the fingers of the right hand 
she touches the wound. This statue, after more 
than common labour, was finished and sent to the 
Marquis of Westminster, who had ordered it. 

* It is in the streets of Rome also that the un- 
restrained passions of the multitude, so full of ex- 
pression, so adapted to art, may be studied. By 
such scenes the inventive faculties of the artist are 
enriched. One day, on my way to my studio, I 
witnessed in the Via Laurina a scene full of ex- 
pression. There were three figures — two of them 

G 



82 Life of John Gibson, 

young men, seemingly filled with rage towards 
each other. The third was a young woman who 
clung to the man who appeared to belong to her. 
Her hand was upon his breast, which was panting 
for rage ; whilst in this action her face was turned 
to the other with an expression of great excite- 
ment All this time not a word was spoken, nor 
did I see a knife in their hands. No one was 
near except myself. The incident thus brought 
before me led me at once to treat a subject which 

I had long been in my mind— namely the quarrel 

I 

between Eteocles and Polynices, on which occa- 
sion their mother Jocasta interceded. I began 
this energetic and grand subject in basso-rilievo, 

j and spent a long time over the model. 

i 

I ^Polynices, .... There 

I Will I oppose thee front to front, there kill thee. 

j Eteocles. My soul's on fire to meet thee. 

Jocasta. . . . Wretched me ! 
I What will ye do, my sons V 

I have represented Polynices looking at his brother 
with calm dignity, and pointing with his sword, as 
if saying " There will I oppose thee," while Eteo- 
cles full of rage and impetuosity is checked by 
Jocasta, who stands between her sons, with one 
hand holding Polynices by the wrist, seeking to 



Eteocles and Polynices. 83 

reconcile him to his brother, and with the other 
upon the breast of Eteocles checking his fury. 

* Black choler filled his breast, that boiled with ire, 
And from his eyeballs flashed the living fire.' 

These lines I repeated often to myself while mo- 
delling the figure of Eteocles. Jocasta is richly 
attired with a diadem on her head, her veil falling 
back in graceful folds. Her whole character is 
queen-like, and in her tribulation dignified ; her 
soul is harassed by the conduct of Eteocles. I 
must confess that I have some pride in this basso- 
rilievo. Years ago Marshal Marmont when at 
Rome did me the honour to come to my studio, 
when he pronounced this to be the most success- 
ful of my works. I have never had an order to 
execute it Subjects of grandeur and heroic 
energy seldom attract the public. 

' Besides the Hunter Mr. Sandbach desired to 
have another figure by my hands to present to his 
lady, representing some object congenial to her 
own poetic feeling. This proposal began to occupy 
my thoughts deeply, and according to my habitual 
custom I used to go to the Villa Borghese and 
wander in the shade meditating and seeking for 
ideas. It was in these solitary musings that 

G2 



84 Lif^ of John Gibson. 

Aurora dawned upon me. I repeated to myself 
those lines of Milton's : 

* Now Mom, her rosy steps in the Eastern clime 
Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl/ 

The more I thought of it the more did I feel that 
this would be the very subject for my youthful 
friend/ He writes to Mrs. Sandbach afterwards 
• — from Innsbruck, * I will give you a sketch of 
the statue, but only in words. It is not a bad 
thing for an artist to put down in words the spirit 
of his idea— though this is a part which you can 
do better than I. 

* Behold the harbinger of day, Aurora, goddess 
of the morning, mother of the stars and of the 
winds, just risen from the ocean with the bright 
star Lucifer glittering over her brow — one foot on 
the waves, the other softly touching the earth. 
Aurora youthful, gay, fresh as the blooming rose, 

light as the dew, swift as the rising sun her brother. 
She is clad in the most transparent vest, simple 
and rich ; her delicate limbs are unrestrained and 
free among the numerous folds which collect them- 
selves in playful variety here and there; now 
waving, now fluttering, now winding about as she 

glides on, on, through the refreshing breeze. 
' Aurora has , filled the two vases which she 



Statue of Aurora. 85 

carries in her soft hands with pure dew from the 
sea, and as she moves onward with swift wings, 
at the same time casting a serene and dignified 
glance over the universe, she scatters the pearly 
drops over the earth, and all the flowers awake 
and expand in the morning sun. This subject 
for a statue is I believe new ; I was encouraged 
to put it in execution from having seen the fictile 
vase published by Millingen, upon which is a 
single figure of Aurora hovering in the air, and 
holding two vases out of which she is pouring 
dew upon the earth. This is the Greek authority 
for the two vases in the hands of my figure. . . . 
* I will now mention Earl Fitzwilliam's visit to 
Rome — he was accompanied by his daughters. 
He visited my studio, and after examining all 
my works he said that he desired to decorate 
his large hall at Wentworth with two bassi-rilievi, 
and that he had fixed upon the subjects. The 
moment he said that a damp fell upon my mind, 
for I knew if I did not approve his choice I 
should not be willing to accept the commission. 
His lordship then named a subject from the his- 
tory of England, with knights on horseback in 
armour. I said I had great admiration for horses, 
and had studied the animal — its forms, anatomy 



86 Life of John Gibson. 

and action — but I objected to the knights. I 
tried to impress on his mind that the beauty of 
the human figure, with expression, was the charm 
of sculpture. I then showed him a drawing I 
had made of the Hours and the Horses of the 
Sun. Earl Fitzwilliam had the good taste to 
order this beautiful subject to be executed — with 
Phaeton driving the Chariot of the Sun as its 
companion.* 

On some occasions Gibson would burst into a 
rhapsody of delight over his art. 

* Sculpture is the delight of my soul : it is more 
elevating than any of the other departments of the 
arts, for its proper aim is the sublime, and the 
purest beauty. To arrive at this lofty degree is 
the great difficulty — there is but one road to it, 
and this was travelled by the Greeks. Nature 
was their school — Nature in all her emotions, and 
in all her movements. They established the 
standard of beauty from her. Every part of their 
statues is copied from the life, yet some say that 
their works are conventional. What a lesson it 
is to us to contemplate these immortal productions. 
They are the golden rules by which we should 
be guided 

* All those men of genius in modem times who 



Michael A ngelo. 8 7 

have deviated from the principles of Greek art 
have left us works not superior but greatly inferior 
to the ancients. We ought to profit by their 
errors. It is the desire of novelty that destroys 
pure taste. What is novel diverts us — truth and 
beauty instruct us. Socrates asserts that evils 
have a necessary existence, for it is necessary that 
there should be something contrary to good. 

* When we glance over the productions of all 
those artists who have tried new styles — deviating 
from the true principles of Greek art — when we 
see Michael Angelo and his followers, Bernini 
and his school — ^we all acknowledge mighty genius 
in the first and great cleverness in the second, but 
the simplicity of nature and the refined beauty of 
form, the easy grace, and the sedate grandeur 
which exist in Greek art are altogether wanting in 
these masters.' 

In a conversation with the late Mr. Harford of 
Blaise Castle, from whose journal we are allowed 
to quote, Gibson thus expressed himself in ad- 
miration of Michael Angelo's Pietk in St Peter's — 
especially as being the work of the great master's 
twenty-fifth year. * It is placed,' he said, * so high 
in the church that it is impossible to see it, but I 
have studied it in casts, and the body of the Christ 



88 Life of John Gibson. 

— the arms and the limbs — are executed with the 
greatest beauty and truth. . . . But in point of taste 
his style appears to have been hurt by his profound 
admiration and study of the Belvedere Torso, 
which, though an exceedingly fine thing in itself 
for its special object, is not to be praised as a 
general type of the human form. One sees, how- 
ever, in his works its influence upon them. One 
sees it for instance in the allegorical figures in the 
sacristy of S. Lorenzo at Florence. These are 
certainly in the style of the Torso. We can but 
admire the figure of the Notte — ^as a work of art 
it is admirable, but no one could sleep m such a : 
position, and that of the limbs is unnatural. The 
execution of these statues is extremely fine. The 
celebrated statue of Lorenzo de' Medici is full of 
sentiment, and seems almost alive. But grand as 
these works are, and much as I admire the genius ^ 
of the man, I cannot say that he had, like Raphael, 
just ideas of beauty and grace, and I have often 
thought that if Phidias and his chief followers could 
have been introduced to the sight of these works 
they would have exclaimed, " Here is indeed a 
most clever and wonderful sculptor, but a bar- 
barian !" Muscular energy pervades all his works 
too forcibly — whereas in the works of the Greeks 



Michael A ngelo. 89 

(so attentive are they to the truth of Nature) there 
is a difference in the muscular expression apper- 
taining to youth, manhood, and to old age, each of 
which has its appointed surface and treatment' 
In writing to his friend Miss Lloyd, April 1832, 
he again says : ' Your time has been well spent at 
Florence among the statues, but though I admire 
the genius and power of Michael Angelo very 
much, I am afraid your taste might be led astray 
by him. . . . The works of the Greeks are like 
the works of the gods. Michael Angelo was a 
wonderful mortal — ^but celestial beauty and grace 
he never arrived at' 

' Those sculptors who are not of the classical 
schools, having no fixed principles, have no dif- 
ficulties to contend with. They maintain that rules 
cramp their genius. They thus enjoy liberty, but 
they cannot elevate our feelings. 

^ When I was modelling the Hunter and Dog I 
had a very fine model in the prime of his youth — 
with correct proportions. But besides having this 
young man I went often to study the casts from 
the Elgin marbles at the Academy of St Luke. 
These sculptures from the Parthenon are the 
most valuable and interesting in existence. Here 
we behold works which Phidias himself directed. 



90 Life oj John Gibson. 

The probability is that he designed all the statues 
and the bassi-rilievi, and probably modelled the 
finest of them with his own hands. . . . Yes, 
the school of Phidias is before our eyes ; if we 
cannot equal these noble examples, we can at 
least penetrate into their transcendent excellence. 
There is, after all the destruction of Greek art,, 
enough in Europe to enable the modems to form 
a grand and pure style of sculpture. Yet there 
are great and fatal obstacles in our way, for nude 
statues are not wanted to adorn our public build- 
ings, nor are they admitted into our temples. The 
public statues which are erected in our squares, 
and in the interior of our mansions, do not require 
the study of the Phidian school to produce them. 
The human figure concealed under a frock-coat 
and trowsers is not a fit subject for sculpture. I 
would rather avoid contemplating such objects. 

' When the Government did me the honour to 
entrust to me the execution of the statue of the 
late Sir Robert Peel I was allowed my own way 
as to the dress. Had they bound me to the anti- 
sculptural costume I was prepared to decline the 
work. One of the most classical architects in 
London stated in a note which I received from 
him that he could not agree with niy idea of 



. Classical Costume. 9 1 

" masquerading John Bull as an ancient Greek." 
My reply was that I would not dress him up 
exactly like an ancient Greek, but that he, the 
architect, would sadly transgress the rules of good 
taste and harmony by placing statues in coats 
and trowsers between his Corinthian and Ionic 
columns ; and I added that, to be consistent, he 
should invent a new order of architectural forms 
in unison with our modem costume. Such statues 
are as obnoxious to me in a Gothic as in a classical 
building. The matter of fact principles advocated 
by many, indeed by all who do not feel high art, 
always produce vulgarity. The literal imitation 
of matter delights the masses. They are never 
aware that the image of a great man should 
always impress the spectator with the character of 
his intellectual greatness — it should give us an 
idea of his soul, and this may be done by judg- 
ment and taste without taking too much from the 
individuality. . . . There are scribblers about 
art who endeavour to denounce the introduction 
into monuments of figures personifying the moral 
virtues of the deceased ; thus they would reduce 
monumental sculpture to simply the statue of the 
person, and that must be in a frock-coat and 
cravat. 



92 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

* But a writer somewhere says, " The practice 
of personifying natural and moral qualities seems 
to have been coeval with Grecian poetry and re- 
ligion : it was not, however, by any means peculiar 
to Greece, and will probably be found wherever 
poetry exists." 



93 



CHAPTER V. 

Grazia^^ Birth of Venus — Earthly and Heavenly Love-^ 
At Yverdun — Illustrations of Psyche — Anecdote of Turner-^ 
Thunderstorm in the Alps. 

*T BELIEVE Winckelmann says that now and 
-»■ then there springs up at Rome a face equal 
to the antique. We have had such an instance in 
a girl named " Grazia," of Capua. Artists of all 
nations pronounced her the greatest beauty they 
had ever seen — she became a model, but only for 
the head. It was remarkable to see a living being 
so identical in feature with the Greek ideal. The 
tragic grandeur of her countenance was most im- 
pressive — every part of the face was Greek — her 
eyes were large and black — her eyebrows black 
and strong, and drooping a little where they met, 
which gave a sternness. Her mouth with the 
very short upper lip was perfect — the hair grew 
low upon the forehead, and was in such profusion 
as to be envied by all the female kind. Grazia 
treated all the artists with great haughtiness. She 



94 Life of John Gibson. 

had a deficient temper, and it was always difficult 
to induce her to keep the position required. If a 
sharp word was said to her she would immediately 
march off, and leave the poor artist to his own 
reflections. My friend Mr. B., a well-known 
portrait painter, was painting her one day. She 
Was sitting abominably, and he said an impatient 
word. Grazia answered nothing, but rose from 
her seat, took her shawl over her arm, scanned 
him grandly from head to foot in silence, and 
lifting herself to her full height — she was tall — 
stalked majestically away. He, poor man, was 
in despair, thinking she would never sit again. 
However next morning he thought of an ex- 
pedient, and turning into a jeweller's shop in the 
Corso he purchased a beautiful gold ornament. 
Then he called upon the tyrant, humbly begged 
lier pardon, and tendered the offering, which was 
condescendingly accepted, and all was made up. 

'During summer there may be seen in the 
streets of Rome groups of young women and 
girls dancing and playing on the tambourine. 
Grazia one evening gave such a ball, herself 
leading the dance and playing spiritedly on her 
tambourine. This was before her own dwelling, 
opposite to which was a large convent with high 



Grazza. 95 

windows. The next day she received an injunc- 
tion from the Superior not to dance there any 
more. After some time had elapsed Grazia felt 
inclined to renew her gaieties, and heedlessly in- 
vited her friends to the same place. That same 
night, about two in the morning (the general hour 
for arresting people), when in deep slumber, she 
was awakened by thundering knocks at the door. 
On opening it she was accosted by the gens- 
d'armes, who ordered her to dress, put her into a 
coach, and took her at once to prison, where she 
was kept for several days. Grazia told me this 
occurrence herself. 

' I had often meditated a bust of her, but had 
hesitated on account of her insolent and capricious 
ways. One day Lord Kilmorey encouraged me 
to begin by expressing a desire for her bust in 
marble. I then engaged the girl to sit to me. 
She was, as usual, full of engagements : I wrote 
my name at the bottom of the long list, and had 
then to wait three weeks for my turn. At that 
time, fortunately for me, I had two young lady 
friends modelling in the same room where Grazia 
sat. One was Miss Somerville, youngest daughter 
of the celebrated Mrs. Somerville. She spoke 
Italian beautifully and kept Grazia in the best 



96 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

possible humour. Grazia was under the delusion 
that every "Signora Inglese" could speak her 
language, and it was dangerous for any lady to 
come and look at her and not speak. Whilst 
Grazia was sitting to the same painter who gave 
her the gold ornament a distinguished English 
lady came and looked at her. Her ladyship 
understood Italian, but did not say a word to 
the girl. This made her furious, and as the lady 
was quitting the room and yet within full hearing, 
she exclaimed at the .top of her voice " Che brutta 
vecchia!" The painter was overwhelmed with 
confusion. 

' I took great pains with the bust, and felt happy 
to model such an extraordinary beauty. One day 
a lady came in who did not understand Italian. 
She stared at the girl very steadfastly in silence. 
Turning to me the lady said, with a sense of dis- 
appointment, " Is this the beauty ? " I had already 
observed a cloud gathering over Grazia's black 
brows, and her eyes began to kindle. "And what 
an atrocious expression she has," the visitor added. 
Grazia darted her fiery looks at me and said in 
a sarcastic tone " Cosa dice la Signora ? " Instantly 
I said " Dice che siete molto bella." She was im- 
mediately mollified, and a tinge of red came into 



Grazia. 97 

her cheeks, which gave a charm to her dark com- 
plexion. Thus by a great deviation from truth I 
saved the lady from some gross and insulting ex- 
pression, but my mother would have grieved over 
this infringement on my part 

' Another day Lady Davy came in to pay a 
visit to our savage beauty. I had warned her as 
to the necessary deportment towards Grazia. So 
the moment her ladyship entered the room she 
began to compliment her, saying " Bellissima, 
dawero ; " and after a few more pretty speeches 
took her leave. Grazia then with a sigh said to 
herself, " Che cara Signora ! spero che tornera." 

' I finished the bust for Lord Kilmorey, and 
afterwards executed a replica for Her Majesty. 
On the front is inscribed 

Grazia. 
Filia Capuensis. 

' Mrs. Huskisson was also a great adniirer of 
the Beauty. When she was in Rome there was 
a German who gave tableaux vivants at the 
" Teatro Valle ; " the most beautiful of the models 
were selected. Grazia was seen to great advan- 
tage costumed as Raphaels Muse of Poetry, with 
a lyre in her hand and crowned with laurel. The 
applause was tremendous, and the " ancoras " re- 

H 



98 Life of John Gibson. 

peated again and again. Mrs. Huskisson said it 
was the most beautiful sight she ever saw. When 
Grazia was about twenty-five, she married a baker, 
and had a baby, after whose birth she never 
recovered her strength. The doctors recommended 
her native air, and she returned to Capua and 
soon died. 

' Vittoria of Albano was another beauty, and 
very Grecian too. She would not sit to sculptors, 
but consented to be painted by Vernet. So her 
beauty will not be preserved to future ages by the 
more lasting material of the sculptor. 

^ A third fair one may also be mentioned — her 
name was Assunta. She was painted by many, 
and by Riedel for the Queen.' 

While Gibson s passion for beauty found its 
highest exercise in following the rules and tracing 
the means which had attained development in the 
almost superhuman perfection of Greek art, it was 
natural that he should also take delight in dwelling 
on the nobler and deeper meanings of those fables 
which that art illustrated — on the religion that 
underlies the Greek mythology. The medley of 
fancy and philosophy, all pervaded by the aspira- 
tions of a mind of peculiar purity and simplicity, 
to which these Gibsonian glossaries of antique 



Birth of Venus. 99 

lore gave rise, may appear foolishness to some, 
but can least of all be excluded from a work 
professing to give a faithful portrait of the man as 
he lived and thought Some also will not fail to 
see how closely he trenched upon the deep things 
of a better philosophy. It is very interesting to 
observe in his correspondence with Mrs. Sandbach 
how these two minds, differently gifted, but both 
touched with celestial fire, acted upon each other 
— hers ever pointing to the sublime certainties of 
Revelation, his dreaming and wandering through 
dimmer ways. He thus writes to Mrs. Sandbach 
(Christmas Day 1 840) : ' I am contending with 
the desire to begin to model my design of the 
birth of Venus : soon I shall abandon everything 
and begin. Let me bring it before your mental 
sight. Behold the new-born Goddess of Beauty 
risen from the sea, one foot on the earth, the other 
just emerging from the last wave. She looks 
forward with modesty and innocence while celestial 
Eros receives her with joyful delight. On the 
left side of Venus is the Goddess of Persuasion, 
holding her hand, and crowning her with flowers. 
Phidias represented Venus risen from the sea and 
received by Love, while Persuasion presents to 
her a crown of flowers. That is my authority for 

H 2 




lOO Life of John Gibson. 

introducing Persuasion. Besides beauty a woman 
must have the power of eloquence — talent — or we 
get tired of her. . . . You say of Amor '* But 
how could it be ? for Venus was his mother, and 
when she rose from the sea he was not born, was 
he ?" " Yes, he was.'' You say " I can't understand 
how you make it out" Then observe and be good. 
Hesiod in his Theogonia says that Amor rose up to 
light out of that unformed mass called Chaos, before 
all else; before the supreme gods had occupied 
their seats. From Chaos sprung up the most 
beautiful of all the supreme gods, the sweet god 
Cupid, the consolation both of gods and men — 

he who softens the heart, and tames the savage 
beasts — Cupid sprang up out of dark Chaos, borne 
up on high with splendid golden wings, and after 
him the gliding Hours. 

^ I think he is called the oldest of the gods. 
Remember this is Celestial Love, and means, 
methinks, something of this nature. God, who 
ever existed, called matter together into form. 
He created the heavens, and all the gods or 
ministers. But there was with the Divine Power 
a pre-existing Desire to call forth the Creation — 
therefore Desire, or Divine Love, is first-born, and 
keeps together in harmony all things above and 



Earthly and Heavenly Love. loi 

below. The ancients made an image of that pre- 
existing Desire with golden wings, and called it 
Eros — and at the birth of Beauty he was present, 
and received her in his arms, while Eloquence 
bestows upon the new goddess the powers of 
persuasion, thus giving you double arms with 
which to overcome and humble us poor men. 
Without Divine Love matter would dissolve — He 
binds all and everything together.' 

The distinction between Earthly and Heavenly 
Love was a favourite subject with Gibson, who 
entered as ardently into the question as if it had 
concerned the politics of the day. These rumina- 
tions gave birth to one of his most beautiful 
designs in bas-relief. He says to Mrs. Sandbach 
in 184 1, ' I have pleased myself with the idea of 
making the celestial Eros extricating the soul 
from the persecution of the earthly Eros — ^but the 
composition was not quite to my liking. I will 
model it on a much larger scale and send it to the 
Exhibition. One of the set who are against treat- 
ing classical subjects said to me, when looking at 
this design, " You will have to write a page of 
explanation that people may understand what it 
means." I said ** Oh no, not a page — only Tom 
and Jerry fighting for a butterfly."' Further on. 



I02 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

when acknowledging Mrs. Sandbach's lines on 
this idea, given below* he adds * I had been 
thinking that the name of the victor is not Eros, 
but Anteros — and I got Mr. Benjamin to look 
into the learned commentator Alciati, and find 
that Anteros is the Celestial Love, first-bom of 

* Celestial to Earthly Love. 

To the realms of celestial light, 
On the wings of the heaven-bom breeze, 
I bear the soul from your power away. 
Free from the yoke of your tyrant sway. 

Hold ! from thy touch it is safe. 

In an atmosphere purer than thine, 
Earth-bound thou canst not pursue it above, 
Where it flies with its guardian, Celestial Love ! 

Knowest thou not Eros, First-bom 

Of the royal assemblage on high ? 
Eros, who rose from the shadowy gloom 
In light and in splendour, in beauty and bloom ? 

O'er the earth on my glittering wings 

I hung, and she blushed into day, — 
I awakened the voice of the spheres, and the song 
Of gladness and triumph rolled richly along. 

The Hours on my radiant path 

Fling buds of undying bloom. 
The golden arrows that fly from my bow 
Bear tokens of friendship to mortals below. 

I've mourned o'er the beautiful Soul 

Consigned to thy withering flame ; 
'Tis rescued, and now I defy thee to pour 
Oe'r the purified spirit one influence more. 



Fable of Narcissus, 103 

the gods — Anteros — anterior to Earthly Love 
and opposed to him. Alciati is good authority, 
but Cicero and some others call Celestial Love 
the son of Venus and Mars — they are wrong 
altogether. . . . 

* Plato in his Symposium says that there are 
two Venuses and two Cupids ; one divine and the 
other vulgar and plebeian. 

* Now Anteros is interpreted by Proclus as 
Divine Love, who abstracts the soul from the 
body. 

* Plutarch in Erotiko says there were two 
Loves, according to the sentiments of the Egyp- 
tians and the Platonists — the common and the 
celestial. 

* Alciati makes Anteros say, ** I am not born 
of the vulgar or common Venus (Pandemon). I 
have nothing to do with vulgar voluptuousness. 
The vulgar Venus is concerned about base amours, 
but I inflame the breast to virtue and to honesty, 
and raise the mind to the contemplation of hea- 
venly things." ' 

Even in the fable of Narcissus Gibson repu- 
diated the common story, and dwelt upon the 
deeper sentiment related by Pausanias, viz.: that 
Narcissus had a twin sister very like himself. 



I04 Life of John Gibson. 

and who was habited in the same garments adap- 
ted to the chase, to which she accompanied him* 
This sister died, and accidentally seeing himself 
in the fountain he took his own image for that 
of his dead sister and pined away in love and 
grief.* This statue by Gibson is one of pecu- 
liar grace. The first idea of it was suggested 
by a boy sitting on the edge of a fountain under 
the wall of the French Academy, with one leg 
doubled under him and looking into the water. 
It was executed for Lord Barrington. 

Gibson's thoughts on celestial Love extended 
by a natural connection to the history of Psyche, 
which he illustrated by some of his most exquisite 
productions. It was while wandering in the woods 
of Yverdun, to which place he and his brother had 
retreated from the heat of Rome — and thinking 
alternately of Mrs. Sandbach and of Psyche, both 
equally real and inspiring to him — that ' he first 
began to consider how this fable might be treated. 
'Yverdun, July 31, 1843. — I must now tell you 
how I make use of my time here. First my 
brother and I walk for nearly two hours and a 
half. It being very cool we can take exercise 

• Descriziofte della Grecia di Pausania, tradotta da A. Nibby, 
vol. iii. p. 278. 



Story of Psyche. 105 

every day. Then Ben goes to his Greek, and I 
to my designs from the story of Psyche. For 
some years past I have felt a desire to illustrate 
this beautiful story, and began that design of the 
Marriage which you have. This fable has been 
illustrated by Raphael and other great men, but 
still I feel that I could also do something and keep 
clear of them. To engrave these in simple outline 
was my object, but that is rather costly, and the 
purchasers would be few — few have taste for clas- 
sical and chaste designs. I have just made a 
sketch of Psyche when she arrives at the palace 
of Proserpine with the casket of Venus to obtain 
the essence of beauty. She was instructed how 
to conduct herself in the presence of the goddess; 
'* You will be graciously received and invited to 
sit upon a superb seat, and to partake of delicious 
viands — ^but you are to sit upon the ground and 
ask only for black bread." This shows ancient 
manners. Psyche here is a suppliant I have 
represented her seated on the ground in great 
modesty and melancholy, with the little casket in 
one hand and an olive branch in the other, and 
Proserpine is seated leaning forward and bidding 
her rise.' 

Again from the same place. ' August 23, 1843. 



io6 Life of yohn Gibson. 

The pen with which I now write to you has just 
drawn another design from the story of Psyche. 
In despair for the loss of Cupid she precipitates 
herself into the river. But the kind river washes 
her on to the shore — upon a flowery bank. Old 
Pan sees her, and consoles her with fatherly sym- 
pathy. I have represented the old God raising 
Psyche upon his brawny arms — she very languid 
and overpowered with despair. The face and 
figure of Pan makes a good contrast with the deli- 
cate and lovely girl. What I admire so much in 
this story is that it presents so many varied pic- 
tures. I think I shall be pretty well acquainted 
with Psyche and all her troubles. Psyche and 
yourself have so often been my companions in the 
woods of Yverdun. I am never, never alone, and 
my thoughts never still.' 

Gibson reasoned rightly as to the difference 
between sculpture and painting in the limits 
assigned to each, but he had very little knowledge 
of any art but his own. In painting he rather 
liked the wrong thing best — viz. a sculpturesque 
effect and subject As to Turner's pictures they 
were as much caviar to him as to the multitude. 
An anecdote related to Mrs. Sandbach is truly 
Gibsonian. 



A necdote of Turner. 107 

' I got into a fine scrape at Turner s one day. 
I knew Turner well, I liked him much, and he 
was always kind to me — called me " Gibby." I 
went to his house with Mrs. Huskisson. We were 
shown into a room where a large picture by him 
stood, apparently unfinished. When he joined us 
— I standing before the picture looking at it — I 
said, " This is a very fine beginning, Mr. Turner." 
** Beginning ! " he cried ; " why, Sir, this picture is 
complete, and will be sent off to-morrow." I saw 
Mrs. Huskisson fidgeting her fingers about, as she 
does when she is uncomfortable. Turner then 
turned to the chimney-piece where stood two 
little terra-cotta figures-^ horrid things they were ! 
** Come here, Gibson," said he, " these are more in 
your line." When we got into the carriage again 
Mrs. Huskisson said, " Well, I think you got your- 
self into a pretty scrape there." ' 

Nor did Gibson care for the beauties of scenery 
in the modern sense of the term — chiefly perhaps 
because he was too unsophisticated to say or do 
anything because other people did it He was 
ever a child — absorbed, inattentive — dwelling 
within. * Heaven lay around him,' even at man's 
estate — never to the last fading * into the light of 
common day.' He had too the vanity of a child, 



io8 Life of John Gibson, 

guileless and transparent — fondly repeating what 
he had once said well — a mind peculiarly refresh- 
ing to the weary and heavy laden, and quite un- 
consciously so. But he was stirred by the grander 
effects of Nature, and delighted also in the simple 
manners of her more lowly inhabitants. After 
many hot summers in Rome refreshed only by 
short retreats to L'Aricia, or any neighbouring 
places, he found it necessary to seek a greater 
change of temperature, and spent several summers 
at Innsbruck accompanied by his brother, and 
once by his friend Mr. Penry Williams. On 
crossing the S. Bernardino they encountered a 
thunderstorm, his description of which might have 
been borrowed from * Childe Harold ' but that he. 
probably had never read a word of it. * July 31, 
1 84 1. We proceeded from Bellinzona, always 
surrounded by mountains as we ascended higher 
and higher, and slept at S. Bernardino. It is to 
this place, surrounded by perpetual snows, that 
people come to drink the mineral waters. This 
would be an admirably cool place to stay at for 
some time. In the morning we — no ; first let me 
tell you we had a storm in the night " How she 
would have liked it," I thought to myself, " but 
she is asleep." The storm was below us, and as 



Storm in the Alps. 109 

we heard the elements raging beneath we became 
aware of our very elevated position. How sub- 
lime is thunder among the mountains ! The roar- 
ing of one mighty mountain to another, and that 
rebellowing back again. The sudden crashes, 
like artillery, cracking and rattling, stunning the 
ear, while the lightning rent the troubled air of 
the night We listened with awe to the storm, as 
the long hollow rumbling murmured more and 
more faintly away into the distant deeps. The 
storm had subsided, and the morning was fine, 
and the delicate blue ethereal sky seen through 
the rents in the rolling clouds was cheering. We 
travelled along in deep snow, sometimes com- 
pletely enveloped in thick clouds, so that we saw 
nothing but what was close to us, and then emerg- 
ing into the light of heaven in a new world at top. 
I thought of you, and longed for you to enjoy 
with me, to behold, to share in what I admired. 
The eternal-looking mountains all around, glitter- 
ing majestically in the morning sun. I felt my 
soul buoyant and irresistibly rising up with joy at 
so magnificent a sight. 

* After travelling eight days we arrived here 
(Innsbruck) and find the air delightfully cool. I 
cannot tell you how well I am, and so is Mr. Ben. 



no Life of John Gibson. 

Every morning we take our walks in the woods 
here. I feel as if I were new modelled. But 
there is a spirit within me will not let me alone. 
I count the days, I think of my studio. And 
then I am puzzled as to a subject of a single 
statue for you — here in the woods I ponder and 
ponder. I see the little bee finds a flower here 
and there, sucks its sweets, and is rewarded, but 
I have not found anything to reward me. How 
difficult it is to find what is not yet bom ! 

'Yesterday morning during our walks in the 
hills, in the woods, I was struck by a sweet voice. 
It was a girl watching her flock. The air was 
plaintive, and had a peculiar effect — so pleasing — 
and as I walked along ruminating I thought how 
would a statue of a shepherdess do ! An Arcadian 
shepherdess, very beautiful, sitting down, and 
resting her hand upon her crook, and in the other 
hand a pipe. She looks melancholy, and in her 
drooping look there is a weariness of mind and 
body which gives the whole figure a graceful re- 
laxation — and by her you see those little flowers 
called forget-me-not ! Would it be difficult to 
imagine that this nymph is unhappy in her love ? ' 
This idea afterwards ripened into a small clay 
model of the Shepherdess Enone, deserted by 



Pass of the Stelvio. 1 1 1 

Paris, and contended with the Aurora for pre- 
ference among the more sentimental of the visitors 
to the studio. 

The next summer Gibson was in Innsbruck 
again. He writes July 2, 1842 : * Here we are 
among the mountains of the Tyrol once more — 
Williams, Mr. Ben, and your restless-minded 
friend. You make me restless, for I accuse my- 
self every day for being so long without writing 
to you. But do not think that I am forgetting 
you ; during our journey whenever we came to 
anything beautiful or grand, unknown to others 
I divided the pleasure with invisible you. . . . 
From Bormio the famous road begins which 
passes over the Stelvio into the Tyrol : the 
highest carriage-road in the world. We began 
the ascent early in the morning. It is magnificent 
and wonderful. Man shows his talents, his power 
over great difficulties, in the construction of these 
roads. Behold the cunning little workman — he 
comes, he explores, and says " Yes ! I will send 
a carriage and horses over these mighty moun- 
tains," and, by Jove, you are drawn up among the 
eternal snows. I am a great admirer of these 
roads. 

' I often think of your present labours, your 



112 Life of John Gibson. 

tragedy, and long to read it. I like the subject 
much. In poetry the principal characters require 
elevation and beauty, and most decidedly so in 
works of art How Homer painted his heroes ! 

* Great as the gods the exalted chief was seen, 
His strength like Neptune, and like Mais his mien ; 
Jove o'er his eyes celestial glories spread. 
And dawning conquest played around his head.* 

Sculpture should always be in this spirit Sir 
Robert Peel said to me, speaking of my statue, 
"It is very like Huskisson, but you have given 
a grandeur of look to the figure which did not 
belong to him." I fancy 150 years hence people 
will not complain of that 

* Again at Innsbruck — July 1845. Mr. Ben and 
I get up every morning at half-past four and take 
long walks, and then we have our breakfast at a 
caf6 house. And the girl who serves us is always 
anxious to say something to us, but it is all use- 
less. We do not understand one word, but she 
understands me when I say " Cafe and milk for 
swine" (flir zweien). Nor do I understand all the 
kinds of money, so I let the pretty girl take what 
she likes out of my hand, and I am sure she does 
not take more than is just from the swine.' 



113 



CHAPTER VI. 

Statues of Mr, Huskisson — Mrs, Htiskisson — Brotize Casting at 

Munich — Principles of Portrait Sculpture — Public Dinners 

at Liverpool and Glasgow — Commission from the Queen — 

Visit to Windsor — Queen^s Statue — Colour-^Richard Wyatt 

— Bombardment of Rome, 

THE allusions to the statue of Mr. Huskisson 
must now be explained. Gibson's bibgraphy 
will furnish the details. 

'After the melancholy death of Mr. Huskisson 
it was decided to erect at Liverpool a statue to his 
memory, and artists were invited, and I among 
them, to send in models for that purpose. But 
being impressed with the bad results of competi- 
tion on these occasions, and the difficulty which 
those totally unconnected with art have in selecting 
the best designs, I declined competing. The work 
was ultimately given to me on my own terms 
(namely, to be treated classically). In 1831 I 
commenced the clay model, which I completed in 
five months. I represented Huskisson standing — 
draped in the Pharos, with the right arm and 
shoulder uncovered. He holds a scroll which he 



114 Life of jfohn Gibson. 

is unrolling, at the same time looking at you with 
firmness. It made an impression on those who saw 
it, and Mrs. Huskisson hearing of the success of 
the work undertook a journey to Rome, on pur- 
pose to see it Meanwhile I had received a letter 
from the committee saying that they had been 
informed that I was modelling the statue of Hus- 
kisson with a bare arm and shoulder and ordering 
me to cover them. I showed the letter to Mrs. 
Huskisson and she begged me to make no altera- 
tion. Soon after, she told me that she had spoken 
to the Marquis of Anglesea, then in Rome, who 
had in some way communicated with the com- 
mittee, and a second letter gave me leave to keep 
the statue as it was. It was completed in marble 
and placed in the new Cemetery at Liverpool, 
within a circular temple designed by Mr. Foster 
over the spot where the remains of Mr, Huskisson 
repose. 

* It was in consequence of the following circum- 
stance that the second statue of Mr. Huskisson 
was designed. A Liverpool gentleman proposed 
that the statue should be removed from the 
Cemetery and placed in the Custom House — that 
being a site connected with the services Mr. Hus- 
kisson had rendered to the commerce of Liverpool. 



Statue of Mr. Huskisson, 115 

The idea of the removal was found to be very 
adverse to the feelings of Mrs. Huskisson, and she 
requested to be allowed to present another statue 
of her husband to be placed in the Custom House. 
This offer was accepted by the Mayor and Town 
Council, and I was employed to model a statue 
eight feet high. This figure was represented in a 
moment of deep thought, with the left hand raised 
before the chest, a slight action in the fingers as if 
calculating, and the right hand hanging down 
holding a book. This again is bare-necked and 
draped with a mantle in large and magnificent 
folds — a mode of attiring the statues of our great 
men not entirely in accordance with the ideas of 
our committees. 

* During the modelling of this statue Mrs. 
Huskisson returned to Rome, witnessed the pro- 
gress of it, and suggested many improvements in 
the face, which rendered this the more like of the 
two. She herself considered this statue the 
superior one. These circumstances brought me 
to the notice and into the society of Mrs. Hus- 
kisson, in whom I found a most gifted and 
sensible lady, and a warm and generous friend. 
She sympathised earnestly in my fame and was 

the principal cause of my rousing myself from my 

I 2 



1 16 Life of John Gibson, 

twenty-seven years' residence in Rome, and of my 
coming to England in the summer of 1 844 to place 
the statue. I proceeded to Liverpool for this 
purpose, but found on examination that the posi- 
tion destined for it in the long room of the Custom 
House was altogether unsuitable, while the only 
place in the building where there was a proper 
light could not be obtained. Mrs. Huskisson 
therefore being anxious that the statue should be 
seen to the best advantage suggested that a site 
should be assigned in the open area surrounding 
the building, and proposed to withdraw the marble 
statue, and substitute one for it in bronze. After 
some difficulty . this generous offer was also 
accepted.' * 

It is with mournful pleasure that I here pause 
for a moment to pay a tribute to this lamented 
lady. After the dreadful blow to her health as 
well as her happiness inflicted by Mr. Huskisson's 
tragical end she remained for long in entire 
retirement, which may be said to have been first 
broken by her journey to Rome to inspect the 
model of Mr. Huskisson's statue in the winter of 
1833. Till then Gibson had been personally un- 

• This second marble statue is placed at Lloyd's, Royal Ex- 
change* 



Mrs: Uuskisson. 117 

known to her. To those who have had the privi- 
lege of knowing both it is no matter of surprise 
that this noble-hearted lady should soon feel an 
interest in the sculptor, second only to that she 
felt for his work. No one was ever more prompt 
to recognise what was noble and true in another, 
and in this unsophisticated man and in his art she 
found a new and unexpected field of interest, the 
more acceptable as it lay not only out of the world, 
but out of the line of all former associations — 
excepting always that which lies at the root of all 
interest in the bereaved heart ; namely, the asso- 
ciation with the object of its sorrow. Gibson's un- 
worldly simplicity refreshed her spirit, his blunders 
and mistakes revived her vivacity. Her affection 
for him was of a nature given to few to bestow or 
to receive — equally as judicious as enthusiastic in 
his behalf. She opened both her town and country 
houses to receive him, gave him the benefit of her 
perfect knowledge of the world, promoted his in- 
terests with unflagging kindness and energy, and 
looked for no return but the pleasure she derived 
from these self-imposed duties. His very friends 
shared in the sunshine of Mrs. Huskisson s friend- 
ship, as those few who still survive will gratefully 
acknowledge, to whom the simple words *dear 



1 18 Life of John Gibson. 

Gibson ' — her usual designation for him — ^will ever 
conjure up memories sad and sweet 

Mrs* Huskisson passed also the winter of 1 845-6 
at Rome. She quitted the Eternal City in May, 
accompanied by Gibson as far as Munich — she on 
her way to England, he to his usual summer 
resort, Innsbruck. At Munich they inspected the 
bronze cast of the statue of Mr. Huskisson which 
had been executed there, and which was the object 
of their visit They also witnessed the casting of 
another statue, of which operation he has left an 
original description in a letter to his old friend 
Mrs. Lawrence (n^e d'Aguilar) near Liverpool. 
'We stayed seven days at Munich — Mrs. Hus- 
kisson living at the house of her cousin the English 
minister; his lady is young and beautiful. He 
drove us all to the Royal Foundry to see finished 
what Mrs. Huskisson has so much at heart. The 
Foundry is a little out of town. On our approach 
we beheld our statue upon a wooden pedestal 
erected in the open air, glittering in the morning 
sun. Mrs, Huskisson was taken by surprise to see 
it standing out before the building, with beautiful 
green trees behind it forming a good background. 
As we entered the enclosed ground we were re- 
ceived by Mr. MuUer, the bronze-caster. He was 



Bronze Casting at Munich. 119 

dressed on purpose to receive us, with an order on 
his breast He is a simple modest young fellow. 
I complimented him upon the beautiful cast, and 
so did Mrs. Huskisson with grace and much de- 
light Mr. Miiller was soon charmed with our 
little lady — when pleased tossing her head about 
and full of joy. Her soul is ever young. 

*• In about four days we returned to see the 
casting of a statue. This time Mr. Miiller was as 
black as a tinker — I should have said as Vulcan — 
but thoughtful and anxious ; for you must know, if 
the operation fails it is a great loss to the man. A 
platform was raised outside of the foundry for our 
ladies, that they might see through the windows, 
and in case of explosion they would have been out 
of danger. After a considerable time the order 
was given by Miiller to cast ; the workmen were 
numerous, and the place hot and full of smoke. I 
saw the brass plug of the great pan which contains 
the melted metal knocked inwards by several 
great blows given to it with a long iron pole, the 
end of which was red hot ; in it went, and out 
rushed the living, red hot river of bronze. It 
made its way down into the mould of the figure 
very regularly for some minutes, when, at last, I 
heard a roaring, bubbling noise, and saw the fiery 



1 20 Life of John Gibson, 

liquid rushing out of the mouth of the mould 
through several holes, in broken lumps. I started 
at that moment, thinking an explosion was taking 
place, when instantly Miiller threw his cap up in 
the air, and all the black devils around him did 
the same, with a tremendous shout, then a second 
shout, and then a third, uttering each time excla- 
mations which I did not understand. The first 
was for the happy result of the casting, the second 
for the health of Mrs. Huskisson, the third for me. 
When the great door was thrown open I was so 
glad of a little air, and we were all covered with 
particles of soot Then in rushed, through all 
the black devils, a fine well-made young Frau up 
to Miiller, threw her arms round his neck and 
kissed him — her joy at the success of the cast' 

The statue was eventually placed in front of 
the Custom House at Liverpool in October 1847, 
at which ceremony Gibson was present. 

The portrait statues by Gibson are very re- 
markable, chiefly from the look of monumental 
grandeur which Sir Robert Peel criticised in that 
of Mr. Huskisson. Our sculptor defined his ideas 
of what a portrait should be clearly and originally. 
* The fault of the portraits of the present age is 
that every man is expected to look pleasant in his 



Expression in Portraits. 121 

picture. The old masters represented men think- 
ing, and women tranquil — the Greeks the same. 
Therefore the past race of portraits in paint and 
in marble look more like a superior class of beings. 
How often have I heard the remark, " Oh ! he 
looks too serious," — ^but the expression that is 
meant to be permanent should be serious and 
calm.' He subsequently executed a statue of 
Stephenson, on which occasion he remarked, *• Mrs. 
Lawrence says that Stephenson should have a look 
of energy — a man of action more than contempla- 
tion. I will endeavour to give him a look capable 
of action and energy, but he must be contem- 
plative, grave, and simple. He is a good subject. 
I wish to make him look like an Archimedes. 
Activity and energy are momentary, contempla- 
tion is more suited to marble. The statue must 
give an idea of his studious moments.' Again, 
when engaged in the pleasing task of modelling 
the fine features of the Duchess of Wellington, a 
gentleman observed that he had given them too 
serious a character. * Now, Mr. Gibson,' said he, 
* I should prefer to see the Duchess modelled with 
that cheerful gay look, as she appears when re- 
receiving her friends.' * I then replied (and who 
that knows Gibson will not see the resolute face 



122 Life of John Gibson. 

and hear the decided voice as he thus spoke), 
" The expression of cheerfulness and gaiety is 
beneath the dignity of sculpture, yes— beneath 
the dignity of sculpture." ' 

To return to his first visit to England in 1844. 
On that occasion the admiration of his Liverpool 
friends rose to that pitch which finds only adequate 
vent in a public dinner. Such tributes to eminent 
artists had been somewhat in vogue — ^Wilkie had 
received the same from the Scotch in Rome — 
Thorwaldsen from the Germans in Rome — David 
Roberts in Edinburgh — it was natural that Liver- 
pool should bestow the same honour on one who 
from his early residence among them was claimed 
as a townsman. But the compliment paid to the 
sculptor at Glasgow was more flattering still from 
the absence of all ties of birth or residence. Gibson 
had executed the statue of Mr. Kirkman Finlay, 
for the Merchants' Hall in that city. It arrived at 
its destination during his stay in England in 1844, 
and he visited Glasgow to witness its erection. 
The principal gentlemen of Glasgow took advan- 
tage of his presence among them to give him a 
public dinner. ' I was much gratified/ he writes, 
* by the kindness shown me in Glasgow, and sur- 
prised to see so many public monuments, and all 



Commission from the Qiieen. 123 

by the best sculptors. I thought the statue of 
General Sir John Moore by Flaxman one of his 
best, as also that of Watt by Chantrey. I ex- 
amined the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wel- 
lington by Marochetti — the horse is very clever. 

' I stayed at the house of my hospitable friends, 
Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gilbert, and during my 
stay he painted my portrait, which he afterwards 
presented to the Academy there.' 

During this visit to England Gibson was hon- 
oured with Her Majesty's commands to execute 
a statue of herself This announcement at first 
rather disconcerted the simple sculptor. * I don't 
know how to behave to Queens,' he said. But 
Mrs. Huskisson came to the rescue, and after 
giving him a few instructions, she added, * all you 
have to remember with Her Majesty is to call her 
Madam, and treat her like a lady.' Soon after 
this he was summoned to an interview with the 
lamented Prince Consort at Windsor, to whom 
with characteristic simplicity he immediately pro- 
pounded two questions which he feared might 
offer difficulties. The first was his habit in portrait- 
sculpture of measuring the features of the sitter 
with compasaes — an operation which in the in- 
stance of Her Majesty he suggested that the Prince 



1 24 Life of yokn Gibson, 

should perform for him. His Royal Highness as- 
sured him in reply that the Queen would permit 
everything he might think necessary. The second 
question was to him the all-important point of the 
class of dress in which Her Majesty would please 
to be represented. Here again he was at once 
relieved by the Prince's assurances that they 
desired the statue to be classically draped. ' We 
wish it to be like a Greek statue, and the Queen 
wishes you to execute it in Rome.' The Prince 
then entered into an animated conversation on 
Rome, art, and artists, and immediately impressed 
the sculptor with a sense of those remarkable 
qualities which captivated all who had the privi- 
lege of approaching him. So engaging and inter- 
esting indeed was this royal young man — then only 
twenty-four years of age — in manner and conver- 
sation, that Gibson forgot all Mrs. Huskisson's 
little lessons on etiquette, and, making his bow, 
quietly turned his back, and only recollected him- 
self in time to * face about ' before he left the 
room. 

Shortly after this interview Gibson spent se- 
veral days at Windsor, during which time Her 
Majesty sat to him with ungrudging patience, 
while the Prince, in Gibson's words, made * good 



Visit to Windsor. 125 

and correct remarks.' It is evident that the 
royal couple soon did justice to the artless 
character of the sculptor, conversing freely and 
kindly with him, ' so that I have not only been at 
perfect ease, but happy in their presence. One 
day I had spoken of our custom at Rome of re- 
peating our works from the same model. The 
Queen said to the Prince, who entered, " Mr. 
Gibson has executed his Cupid seven times. You 
must not, Mr. Gibson, repeat my statue." " No, 
Madam, but will your Majesty have any objection 
if I present your bust in marble to the people of 
Liverpool, to be placed in St. George's Hall ?" 
She said, " Oh ! no." The Prince added, " That 
is kind of you." I said that Mr. Roscpe was my 
first friend who called me forth, and that it was 
my Liverpool friends who sent me to Rome. 
His Royal Highness said, " Well, Mr. Gibson, 
you are an example to the people of Liverpool to 
send out more young men to Rome." ' 

In a letter to his friend Mrs. Lawrence from 
Innsbruck, July 21, 1845, he writes: * Before I 
left Rome I had finished the full-sized model of 
her Majesty. I can assure you it cost me much 
deep reflection and careful study. I was ordered 
to make it the size of life, so that it required 



126 Life of John Gibson. 

management to preserve in a small figure the 
look and air of one presiding over us — that air 
of dignity and firmness, yet softened by a touch 
of mildness and grace which her Majesty really 
has. To mark all this with simplicity and natural 
ease, without affectation, has been my aim. My 
statue has none of those usual symbols of a Queen 
— ^such as the crown, the royal robes, and the ball 
and sceptre. I have tried to give royalty in the 
look and action. The Sovereign is represented 
presiding over the affairs of the nation, holding in 
the left hand the laws, which she grasps tight 
with her little fingers, and in the right the laurel 
crown which she is about to bestow. But the 
action has not taken place, but is about to com- 
mence, so that the figure is in repose, and the 
spectator anticipates the action. The classical 
costume enables me to give elegance and grace to 
the lines of my statue, and also lightness. The 
corners of the mantle are adorned with the em- 
blems of the three kingdoms, and on her head is 
a diadem, on which in flat relief dolphins are 
sporting upon the waves of the sea.' 

In a letter to Sir Charles Eastlake, April 1846, 
he thus mentions this work. * The Queen's statue 
is advancing in marble, and will be finished early 



S tattle of the Queen. 127 

next winter — you remember how pleased I was 
with his Royal Highness for desiring me to dress 
the statue classically. I have always watched 
attentively the effect of this Iconic statue upon 
the people here, who have crowded to see it ever 
since I modelled it. None have complained of 
the drapery, but they have admired its richness. 
It is true that the portrait statue of a lady does 
not thus suffer so great a transformation as that 
of a man/ 

It was in this statue of Her Majesty that 
Gibson first broke through the usual limits of 
modern sculpture and introduced a little colour. 
He thus writes to Mrs. Sandbach — December 17, 
1846 — Rome. * Since my return to Rome I have 
given myself up body and soul to finishing the 
Queen's statue, and have wrought her up as high 
as possible. My enthusiasm has also carried me 
beyond the practice of sculptors, for I have added 
colour. The diadem, sandals and borders of 
drapery, are tinted with blue, red and yellow. 
Since this statue has been finished my studio has 
been constantly visited, and it makes a greater 
impression than the model did. ... I must 
tell you, however, that the English are startled at 
my having painted Her Majesty. They do not 



128 Life of John Gibson. 

know what to make of it Some like it, and say 
that the painting is done with so much delicacy 
that they cannot help admiring it, but most of 
them condemn, and some run it down even before 
seeing it Some express the suspicion that Prince 
Albert told me to colour it, otherwise I would not 
have dared to do it I have answered " No, the 
Prince knows nothing about it I have done it 
to please myself." Yes — I know that it will be 
universally condemned. Williams was always 
against the idea of colouring sculpture — would 
never listen to me — ^but, when he saw me deter- 
mined, he assisted me in producing the delicate 
effect which it has — and now he is a convert, so 
he says. Wyatt is against it, but the Italian 
sculptors and painters as well as the Germans 
admire the effect. My eyes have now become 
so depraved that I cannot bear to see a statue 
without colouring. I say this to the people, 
" Whatever the Greeks did was right'' — that ought 
to be our law in art, in sculpture.' 

To return to the biography. * The statue 
arrived in England, and agreeable to my request 
it was allowed to be sent to the Royal Academy, 
where it proved a fine bone for the writers on art 
to pick. I had arrived also in London and was 



Statue of the Queen, 129 

again lodged < with Mrs. Huskisson. One day I 
received commands to attend at Buckingham 
Palace. After waiting a short time his Royal 
Highness entered. He was gracious, and giving 
me his hand said, " Well, I wished to tell you that 
the Queen and myself have been to the Exhibition 
of the Royal Academy and seen the statue, and 
I am happy to say that the Queen is very much 
pleased with it, and so am I " — he added laughing 
" colour and all." He observed at the same time 
that he had seen in one of the morning papers 
a violent attack upon it. I assured his Royal 
Highness that if I lived they would have a 
stronger dose of polychrome.' 

Gibson will return to the disputed subject of 
colour further on. The statue of the Queen 
excited great admiration among the small public 
competent to judge. If the shortness of stature 
was a difficulty which he successfully overcame, 
some of the most conspicuous beauties are Her 
Majesty's own, for the hands and arms were cast 
from herself. He was commissioned to execute a 
replica* This second figure suffered two serious 
risks before arriving at completion. The first 
was from an inundation of the Tiber, which threat- 
ened the foundations of Gibson's studio — ^the 

K 



130 Life of John Gibson. 

second from the French bombardment of Rome, 
which especially burst over that quarter. A notice 
of Mr. Wyatt the sculptor, just mentioned, will 
introduce this incident, and at the same time record 
the generous justice which Gibson did to him. 

* Nearly opposite my door lived a rival — that 
rival was Richard Wyatt, who had also studied in 
Rome for many years with indefatigable labour. 
He, like myself, had been the scholar of Canova, 
though not for any length of time, for that great 
sculptor died in 1822, when we both of us had 
recourse to Thorwaldsen for instruction. 

* Wyatt had acquired the purest style, and his 
statues were highly finished- — ^female figures were 
his forte, and he was clever in composition and in 
the harmony of lines. Drapery was also a great 
study with him. His statues are remarkably 
refined in character, and graceful in action. He 
had a strong feeling for the beautiful. His prac- 
tice was generally as follows. Whenever he made 
a clay sketch for a new subject he would put it 
out of sight for several months, and then bring it 
out upon trial If it still pleased him he would 
then begin his clay model life size, availing himself 
of as many living models as he could obtain, and 
he always cast the joints when these parts were 



Wyatt the Sculptor. 131 

beautiful in nature. Indeed the Roman sculptors 
make a great study of the joints, hands and feet 

* There was a compact between Wyatt and 
myself, which was to point out each other's defects 
unreservedly, and I always felt that each benefited 
by the judgment of the other. Besides this general 
rivalry between Wyatt and myself in what con- 
cerned art there was another point of competition 
in which I must confess he was generally my 
superior — namely in his habit of early rising. 
For though I always arrived at the Caff^b Greco for 
breakfast before sunrise, I constantly found him 
already established there, sitting with a wax taper 
in his hand, reading the daily papers over his 
coffee. As soon as daylight dawned we pro- 
ceeded to take our usual walk on the Pincio, and 
after half an hour's exercise descended the hill to 
our studios in the Via Fontanella, Babuino* 

* In the year 1849 we were greatly disturbed by 
the public commotions of Rome. I cannot say 
that the Italians actually molested any of us, but 
it was most disagreeable to be in a place in such 
a state of uproar. When the French arrived at 
Civita Vecchia I advised my friend Wyatt to join 
me in leaving Rome, but though not doubting that 
the French would bombard the city he had no 

K 2 



132 Life of John Gibson. 

desire to leave, but, on the contrary, wished to 
witness whatever might happen. 

* Meanwhile the statue of Her Majesty had been 
finished and was in the hands of the polisher, who 
was now disturbed in his labours by some com- 
munications threatening assassination. He was 
considered to be a ^ nerOy as the Pope's party 
were called, the more so as his son was a priest 
I therefore advised him to leave Rome for Porto 
d'Anzio, and he took my advice. In due time the 
French army advanced to within four miles of our 
walls, and then I ran away too, leaving not only 
my companion but all my statues to their fate. I 
went to Florence and then on to the Baths of 
Lucca, where I received a letter from Wyatt. He 
reported that the French were making prepara- 
tions to attack the city on the side of the Piazza 
del Popolo. Anticipating therefore a bombard- 
ment close to our studios, he had entered mine 
with some men — moved the statue of the Queen 
to a corner of the room, and there erected a pent- 
house of strong planks over it, so that if shells or 
balls broke through the roof they would roll off. 
Three days after this the attack began, about three 
o'clock in the morning. Wyatt was startled out 
of his sleep by the thunder of artillery, the hissing 



Wyatt the Sculptor. 133 

of the shells, and the smashing of the tiles of the 
houses round about. He jumped out of his bed, 
which was immediately under the roof, and came 
down the winding stair to his working rooms, 
which were on the ground floor. Soon the voice 
of war became louder and louder, when in an in- 
stant a grenade came through the window into 
the room where he stood, and burst: one bit 
knocked the light out of his hand, and another 
grazed his shoulder — his arm was benumbed, and 
he was left in the dark in the midst of smoke and 
dust He added, " I had a very narrow escape." 
A shell had also fallen close to the door of my 
own studio, when the women opposite seeing 
flames and smoke cried out, " The Englishman's 
studio is on fire !" but the shell did no harm. 

* The movement of the French towards this 
side of the city was merely a feint to conceal their 
real point of attack, which was in fact on Mount 
Gianicolo, where they actually entered near the 
Porta San Pancrazio. . . . 

* No sculptor in England has produced female 
statues to be compared to those by Wyatt, and the 
judges at the Great Exhibition in London of 185 1 
very justly awarded him one of the four first-class 



134 ^if^ ofyohn Gibson. 

gold medals. This honour was conferred on him 
after his death, for he died in 1850. . . . 

* Mr. Wyatt's relations were going to erect a 
small monument over his grave at Rome, but I 
requested as a friend to be allowed to perform that 
duty. I have done so, and have sculptured his 
handsome profile, with the following inscription : 

To THE Memory 

OF Richard Wyatt, Sculptor, 

Bom in London on the 3rd of May, 1795; died in Rome 

on the 28th of May 1850. 
He practised his art in Rome 29 years. His works are uni- 
versally admired for their purity of taste, grace, and truth of 
nature. The productions of his genius adorn the royal palaces 
of England, St. Petersburg, and Naples, as well as the re- 
sidences of the nobility and gentry of his own country. He 
was remarkable for his modesty, his high sense of honour, and 
his benevolence. Erected by John Gibson, Sculptor, as a 
^ token of friendship and admiration. 



135 



CHAPTER VII. 

The Concessions of Pio Nono — Emancipated Liberals — GibsotCs 
Trials and Reflections — The Pope's Constitution — Reports cur- 
rent in Rome — The Austrian Escutcheon — The Volunteers — 
Revolt of National Guard — Murder of Punch — Murder of 
Count Rossi— The Little Waiter— The Prohibited Knife— The 
Madman — Garibaldi — The French within sight of Rome — 
GibsorCs retreat. 

WE here return somewhat on our steps to a 
period extending from 1847 ^^ 1849, 
when Gibson's biography and correspondence are 
full of the tumults and passions which agitated 
Rome. If he has no pretensions to be considered 
as a political oracle, he at any rate records events 
and registers impressions indicative of the spirit 
of the time. Not that the perfect accuracy of his 
descriptions can be depended on, for though no 
man living was ever more truthful, yet his mind 
was too intensely subjective for it to give forth 
any very graphically correct impressions. He 
simply told things as he saw them and under- 
stood them. In his own peculiar blocking-out 
style he gives a survey of the reforms and con- 
cessions granted by the Pope — the liberty of the 



1 36 Life of John Gibson, 

press — the establishment of political clubs — the 
appointment of a National Guard — ^all preceded 
by agitations and celebrated by demonstrations 
which signalised equally the popularity and the 
helplessness of the Holy Father — finally delivering 
his soul in this ominous ejaculation, ' Ah ! Pio ! I 
think of thee when I watch the spider and the fly 
in the corner of my modelling room. . . . 

' When Pio Nono first stood forth, encircled by 
a new and brilliant halo, he raised his hand — ^the 
prison gates fell — patriots were liberated — exiles 
rushed back to their native land. The Romans 
and the provinces testified their gratitude by 
splendid processions, bands, flags, and singing 
hymns all the way to the Quirinal. Upon these 
occasions the feelings of the good Pontiff have 
often been touched — covering his face with his 
handkerchief. Behold Rome full of emancipated 
Liberals /rpm all parts. The Pope receives the 
most talented men at his palace-r-he said to them, 
" You are the very men I want to help me in my 
work." 

* But the day comes when the good Pontiff says 
to his beloved Romans, " You ask me for what I 
cannot give, ought not to give." What are these 
clouds that intercept the rays of the sun from the 



Disturbed State of Rome. 137 

brows of Pio ? Still he gives way. " Out with 
the Governor of Rome !" He goes out. An idol 
of the people is put in his place. After a while, 
'* Out with him too !" and out he goes. Then the 
Minister of War won't do. " Out with him !" and 
another is put in his place. There is no end to 
their demands — out with this person, down with 
that. " Out with the police, death to the Jesuits !" 
Every day " Death to the Jesuits!" is heard as 
they walk in the streets. Their deportment is 
dignified, and so calm. Oh ! National Guard ! you 
are getting unruly, too many of you are seen dis- 
orderly on the Corso. At length Pio drives in state 
through the streets to calm the people — he is well 
received, but the cry is " Viva Pio Nono solo !'' ' 

Personally too Gibson had his share of abuse 
and anxiety. Hitherto he had lived in peace — 
one of his quiet boasts being that his name never 
appeared on the Roman police books. Rome, at 
that time, was like an angry sea, which cast up 
mire and dirt — some of which was aimed es- 
pecially at the English residents. The ill will, 
always more or less existing among the ranks 
of inferior foreign artists against the successful 
English sculptors and painters, came now un- 
restrainedly to the surface. ' Bad passions show 



138 Life of y ohn Gibson, 

themselves/ he writes, 'from the artist quarters, 
and I am sorry that higher persons participate in 
the feeling that we English sculptors, settling 
here, have been injurious to the Italians/ An 
attempt was made, by means of agitation, to 
compel them to serve in the National Guard. 
According to Gibson, some English artists did 
so, but they were young and active and fit for the 
night-work, which was our sculptor s particular 
dread. 'A corporal and guard have been three 
times to arrest Wyatt because he has not taken 
up his gun to serve in the National Guard. His 
lameness has been his excuse, and he is let alone 
for the present' Gibson also suffered from his 
throat, and from rheumatism, and was furnished 
with a medical certificate. * Meanwhile the most 
horrid article I ever read has come out against us 
in a Roman paper called " La Pallade " — that, 
" having come among us beggars, and made 
something of a fortune — ^we say nothing of their 
talents — they now refuse to serve in the National 
Guard. Such can only be made to obey the 
' linguaggio del nodoso bastone.' " Freeborn (the 
English Consul) is stated to have censured us for 
our cowardice, and to have threatened to write to 
Lord Palmerston.' Gibson thus philosophises on 



Disturbed State of Rome. 1 39 

it to Mrs. Sandbach. ' I have never spoken to 
my countrymen of the bad feelings of the Italian- 
sculptors here. It is disagreeable to think of. 
But human nature is so defective. Nobleness 
Is only to be found in a few individuals. When 
I was in England * * * * said to me " Here 
you have a vicious press against you." At Rome 
I may say I am surrounded by those who have 
wilder passions. 

' If you meddle with Fame you cannot pass 
a life of tranquillity. I have sometimes thought 
that had I been a gardener — yours — I should 
have been happier — married to one of your 
maids — to that little one with the funny cap. But 
perhaps she would not have had me ! Williams 
is in sad spirits — he thinks his suffering eyes will 
not save him from the disgusting night-work. I 
fear too — ^but we shall see. In case of a grand 
burst I have thought I would slip away with 
Ben and Williams to the Ionian Islands for a 
year, and wait events.' 

Just at this time too there came an arrow from 
England in the shape of a fierce and ignorant 
attack on his statue of Huskisson, and not only 
upon that, but also, by a strange perversion of 
aesthetic criticism, on Mrs. Huskisson for having 



140 Life of John Gibson. 

presented it to the people of Liverpool. This 
occasions an outburst from this most placable and 
benevolent of men, who spoke in his haste what 
we should hesitate to give could it be possibly 
viewed in any but a humorous light 'Feb. 21, 
1848. I am sorry "the vicious press" has been 
so coarse with her. As for their attacking my 
work, it is a proof that it gives them pain. In 
a professional view I feel as if between two 
batteries — one in London, the other here. Yes — 
I agree with old King David. I say, curse all 
my enemies — those in London and those at Rome 
too. I won't forgive my enemies — it's foolish to 
do so. Now if you had been near me you would 
have stopped my pen and said ** Oh erase that 
sentence — throw away that pen and take a clean 
one from my hand and write of your enemies 
with magnanimity."' Then returning to what 
was around him, * We old artists now begin to 
hope that they do not intend to force us into this 
service. I hope they will leave us alone and 
manage their affairs themselves. We shall soon 
see how liberty works with them here. The 
vSardinians it will do for, for the people are more 
enlightened, and so they are in Tuscany. 

* There is an English Catholic here, a friend of 



L ast Day of Carnival. 141 

the Pope, who is anxious that I should undertake 
a bust of His Holiness for him. The Pope also 
would sit to me. But I hold back because I fear 
that my Italian rivals would be more sore. I 
would rather not meddle with it At the same 
time I have great respect and admiration for 
His Holiness. I hope his subjects will turn out 
worthy of him.' 

The 29th March he writes again to Mrs. 
Sandbach. ' For some time past old Rome has 
been shaking with agitation. A party here got 
up a report which became general that on the last 
day of the Carnival every German was to be killed. 
That day arrived, and all the troops were out, 
with a grand force of National Guards. Nothing 
happened, and the last day of the fun ended 
peaceably. Rome slept in the arms of tranquillity 
— awoke next morning with brighter hopes of the 
future. 

'AH were glad when the Carnival was over. 
But alas! here is a new calamity! all devout 
people are struck with awe — horrid sacrilege has 
been committed in St Peter's, and prayers are 
offered up by the order of the Pope. The 
head of St Andrew has been stolen. It was 
enclosed in a bust of silver, adorned with pre- 



142 Life of John Gibson. 

cious stones. A large reward is offered for its 
recovery. 

'The 15th of March was a day, new, extra- 
ordinary and memorable for the Romans. The 
long expected Constitution of Pio Nono appeared 
upon the walls. In the afternoon the people 
and the National Guard went by thousands and 
thousands to the Quirinal to thank the Pope, the 
first proclaimer of Italian liberty. The National 
Guard are beautifully yet simply dressed. The 
costume was designed by Canevari — but why 
dress infantry with helmet and red horse-hair, 
and with the short, straight antique sword ? The 
answer is that they may be as much as possible 
like the antique Romans. When all were as- 
sembled the Pope came to the balcony. There 
stood the splendidly robed Pontiff — the truly 
pious and just — the champion of liberty. The 
rays of that sun which has witnessed the thou- 
sand vicissitudes of the Eternal City fell upon 
His Holiness with glowing brightness. The 
shout of " Viva Pio Nono ! " from the eman- 
cipated Romans was sublime. He then gave a 
prayer, to which all responded, and the voice of 
the multitude fell on my ears like the voice of 
the disturbed ocean restored to tranquillity. He 



Constitution of Pio Nono. 143 

made no speech, but gave the benediction, when 
the people rose again and the " Vivas " were 
deafening. The compact battalions of the Na- 
tional Guard were splendid, and their arms 
glittered like a forest of sparkling glass and 
gold, for every man raised his brass helmet upon 
his bayonet, and the numerous standards with 
golden eagles waved to and fro. Above them 
were the majestic statues of Castor and Pollux, 
while the parting rays of the setting sun fell 
softly upon the affecting scene. 

* And the day departed with its brightness, and 
the night came with its darkness, but the Ever- 
lasting remaineth unchanged — the stars shone, 
and God, the living, the merciful, looked upon the 
creation.' 

And Gibson returned home to muse over the 
Aurora and * The Gliding Hours,' which were then 
under his modelling hand. * About ten o'clock 
the other morning I went out — crowds in the 
streets and collecting by hundreds in the Corso. 
** What's going to take place now ? " said I. 
" Revolution in Vienna — gran novita — the Em- 
peror of Austria a prisoner in the hands of the 
people." Soon printed papers were circulated, 
confirming all to a word. Hangings and flags out 



144 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

of all the windows in the Corso, the bell of the 
Capitol and others sounding, and perpetual firing 
of light arms. This was not enough. Hundreds 
went in procession to the palace of the Austrian 
ambassador — twelve of the leaders entered, and 
found the ambassador with his family at breakfast 
They requested him politely to take down the 
Imperial arms over his entrance, for the Em- 
peror was dethroned. He assured them that he 
had no intimation of such an event, and refused to 
comply. They retired, got a ladder ; the crowd 
was great, and began their work. It took them 
more than an hour to get the escutcheon loose 
— at last down it came, and was trampled on. 
Then they procured an ass, and a little hump- 
backed dwarf happening to be near, they made 
him get on to the back of the ass with the arms. 
Thus they proceeded up the Corso in grand pro- 
cession to the Piazza del Popolo. There were 
thousands of the people. At the Piazza del 
Popolo a large fire was made — numbers of car- 
riages were there, and English ladies and other 
nations looking on. Oh, would that you had been 
there to describe the scene ! — the figures round the 
fire, roaring with demoniac shouts, the screams of 
furious ecstacy as the two-headed eagle was tri- 



Commotions in Rome. 145 

umphantly raised aloft and then thrown into the 
flames. Then the hands that did the deed were 
held up with outstretched fingers quivering con- 
vulsively with mad joy — their dark faces and long 
black beards looking still darker by the effect of 
the white smoke which ascended above the obelisk. 
Besides tearing down the arms from the ambassa- 
dor's Palace, they were also torn down from the 
Austrian church, and from other places. 

* But the business was not to end here. Three 
hours after, a grand procession was got up from 
the Popolo down the Corso to the Palace of the 
Senators. There were thousands — masses of the 
plebeians and also of a better sort, and some like 
gentlemen — numbers too of the soldiers of the line 
and National Guards, and plenty of low priests 
with the tricolor on their breasts. This mixture 
walked in lines arm and arm — flags flying and 
militar)'' bands playing. Still the business did not 
end here. They illuminated all Rome. During 
all these proceedings not a lamp nor a window 
was broken — nor any individual of any nation in- 
sulted. Then they had a splendid bonfire in the 
Corso, which was one flare. When the lights were 
to be put out the leaders of this affair fired a gun, 
the people obeyed and all went to their homes. 



146 Life of yohn Gibson. 

* Now the Government has formed the plan of 
sending off some thousands of this rabble — with 
volunteers from the National Guard and also the 
regular troops to conduct them. The young 
Romans are mad to fight against the Austrians. 
An English artist yesterday saw two thousand 
going off — some of them in rags, and many de- 
cently dressed plebeians. Their mothers, sisters, 
and others were there. Near my friend a fine 
tall young girl cried out to her lover, " Augusto 
mio ! — ^be of good animo — we meet again, and be 
sure you bring me the head of a German ; "— 
then other women cried out, " Yes, bring us 
their heads." A day or two before all these 
had marched to the Coliseum, where their names 
were enrolled, and where an eloquent priest had 
addressed them^ inspiring them with a love of 
their country, and bidding them drive out the 
" straniero." You have no idea of the enthusiasm. 

' All the inhabitants are invited to subscribe 
money to send off these volunteers. We, being 
residents here, I consulted our consul as to the 
propriety of our subscribing. Wyatt and I thought 
we ought not to subscribe, as they professed to go to 
fight against Austria ; but Freeborn said the Pope 
had prohibited his subjects from crossing the fron- 



Ruminations. 147 

tier — they are to form a line of observation. He 
said he had already subscribed thirty crowns — 
I then put down twenty, and Wyatt also twenty. 
Two months ago I subscribed fifty crowns to 
dress the National Guards. At the subscriptions 
yesterday I saw several ladies' bracelets, and all 
sorts of women's ornaments,' 

Then occasionally our sculptor retires for a 
space into the haven of his own ruminations. 
* I have never heard of Jean Paul — tell me more 
about him. I admire his sentiments as to the 
impression which the Greek statues made upon 
his mind. I like this, *' The repose of perfection, 
not oi weariness;" also, ''These Gods appear 
before me and recall to me the laws of beauty." 
When I walk in the assembly of the Greek 
statues I feel as if I had left the earth with all its 
imperfections. I am surrounded by divine beauty, 
imperishable — ^which I find nowhere else. The 
majesty, the noble calm, the perfect symmetry 
which surrounds me, makes me forget for a 
moment that I am a poor mortal, I feel as if I 
were remodelled — yes — perfect in body and soul. 
But I must shut the door upon the Gods, and 
come down upon the earth.' 

Then come wars and rumours of wars, and dread- 

L 2 



148 Life of yohn Gibson. 

ful stories about the atrocities of the Austrians at 
Milan, fabricated and circulated among the Roman 
people — * roasting people by slow fires — ^bags full of 
ladies hands' for the sake of the rings — babies car- 
ried through the streets upon the points of their 
bayonets, and so on. This is the way with these 
people — ^when a Roman quarrels with another, 
even among fashionable families, you are shocked 
by the horrid scandal they will tell of each other. 
. . . We fear that a French army will enter Italy 
— in that case there will be a general conflict, 
and I shall be a prisoner here. Mr. Ben can- 
not live in England, and I should not like 
to desert him. Besides, I want to finish my 
basso-rilievo of the Hours. I think it the best 
composition I have ever done. . . We have not 
yet had any German heads, but a trophy was s^nt 
from the field. It is the bloody waistcoat of a 
German, shot in the breast, and was exhibited at 
the Caffe Greco before great crowds of people. 
Many of my friends went to see it' 

Meanwhile the revolt of. the National Guard 
took place. ' Behold the Corso crowded with 
people — for three days they roar and thunder 
from the clubs. One orator proposes to arrest 
the Pope at once — another from the club windows 



Revolt of National Gtiard. 149 

cries out, " To the Vatican — the Vatican ! there 
proclaim the revolution." Some of the National 
Guard inflamed with hell fire and fury curse the 
Pope, and call him degrading names, tearing from 
their heartless breasts his medals, and trampling 
on them. Then they took possession of the Castle 
of St Angelo, and of all the gates of Rome. For 
four days no one could go out of the city except 
foreigners with travelling carriages and passports 
— ^how the English did fly! Then the storm 
was directed against the cardinals — ^we expected 
the old gentlemen would be sent to heaven. The 
National Guard made them prisoners in their own 
houses. One of them said, " By whose authority 
am I a prisoner in my house ? " " It is the order 
of our captain." " Who is your captain .'^ " " S. 
the painter." 

* It was the third day of their confinement, 
when lo ! at five o'clock in the morning, I read a 
proclamation from the Pope. At the end he says, 
" E non rispettando nemmen le Persone, calpe- 
stando ogni diritto, tenta (o. Gran Dio, li si gela il 
cuore nel pronunziarlo ! ) di tingere le vie della capi- 
tale del mondo cattolico col sangue di venerande 
Persone, designate vittime innocenti, per saziare 
le volontcL sfrenate di chi non vuol ragionare. E 



1 50 Life of John Gibson. 

sarJi questo il compenso che si attendeva un Pon- 
tefice sovrano ai moltipHcati tratti deir amor suo 
verso il popolo !" 

* ** Popule meus ! quid feci tibi ?" Then he goes 
on to say that their conduct will throw an odium 
upon their own cause in the face of the whole 
world, and then he hints at excommunication ! 

* At nine in the morning there was to have 
been a great meeting at the Piazza del Popolo — 
no meeting — all Rome was paralysed by the threat 
of excommunication, and they gradually quieted 
down. The moment the Cardinals were at liberty 
they fled to the Pope's palace, where they have 
been for many days. Since those events people 
have been able to sleep more calmly. You see 
how Pio by the rapidity of his reforms has de- 
stroyed his power, and sunk into that of the 
mob.' 

Meanwhile there was disunion in the camp of 
the National Guards — ^the Trasteverini (those who 
live over the Tiber) were the first to return to 
their allegiance. * The Trasteverini have ever 
been staunch to the Popes : they will fight for the 
Vicar of God. The battalion marches out with> 
their officers, band, and standards with laurel 
crowns, and with four men in plain clothes carry- 



Popular Tyranny. 151 

ing a large square cushion, crimson velvet trimmed 
with gold, upon which is placed a large bunch of 
flowers. The band strikes up, and they march to 
the Quirinal. The disappointed, disgusted Pio, 
had shut himself up for many days with his 
Cardinals. Once more he hears " Viva Pio Nono," 
and appears on the balcony and blesses them. 
The commander prays His Holiness to allow the 
battalion to kiss his foot, and then marches into 
the Palace preceded by the four men carrying the 
bunch of flowers — the officer presents it, kneels 
and kisses the Pope's foot, and then the whole 
company one after the other do the same. 

* This circumstance troubled the rebelled guards 
— ^but soon they made up their minds to do the 
same, and so a battalion goes every day with a 
bunch of flowers on a crimson cushion to kiss the 
Popes foot. Nevertheless Pio is still sulky — he 
won't go out to take his usual drive. . . , A Roman 
duke whom I have known for years, and who has 
always been a Liberal, said to me, " Ever since the 
Pope has given his constitution Rome has never 
suffered under such tyranny. No man dare open 
his mouth — no printer dare publish an article on 
the side of equity, order, and justice. The party 
of religion and order blame the Pope for his bad 



152 Life of John Gibson. 

management ; they feel that he has disorganised 
society and placed their lives and property in 
danger." ' 

This was doubtless uttered after the fate of 
poor * Punch/ who had paid for his honesty with 
his life. * A new paper appeared here called 
Cassandrino (Punch), very clever and sarcastic. 
Punch claims the liberty of the press, and to 
the surprise of everybody avails himself of it 
This little paper had a great run — everybody 
reading it. He touched up the acts and proceed- 
ings of the Liberals, and was very hard upon the 
Roman warriors who, against the orders of their 
sovereign, crossed over the confines to fight the 
" barbarians." The editor of Punch was a priest, 
aged thirty. Soon he received a polite hint to 
drop his paper, or he would be assassinated. 
Punch published the polite hint, and, to the 
amazement of the public, continued the paper. 
As to the threat, he wrote " Do you intend to 
give me the blow in the back or in front ? " The 
day before yesterday at ten in the evening 
Punch was killed. The bold, clever priest was 
struck by the assassin with a very fine narrow 
dagger in the neck ; the point came out at the 
other side. He gave a cry, fell, and was dead in 



Murder of Count Rossi. 153 

a minute. I should think this act will terrify the 
Romans from using the liberty of the press. 
Punch did not meddle with individuals, but wrote 
upon the general doings of the Liberals, with many 
useful and good truths/ 

This was written in July 1848. Six months 
later a higher representative of constitutional 
liberty fell a victim, and the depraved and un- 
reasoning people — with the utter unfitness for 
liberty which centuries of the worst possible 
government had entailed upon them — ^hailed with 
impious rejoicings the shedding of that blood 
which has ever since been a plague-spot upon 
their cause. 

* One day when I was working in my studio 
two English friends entered and said " Have you 
heard the news?" I said "My man tells me 
that Count Rossi has been assassinated — ^but I 
can't believe it" Then they said " Put on your 
coat and come with us." I did so and went 
with them to the Corso, where we found every 
house on each side with flags and tapestry, purple 
and gold, displayed in token of rejoicing at the 
horrid event which had just taken place. In the 
evening of that day insulting songs were sung 
under the window of the widow, who was that 



1 54 Life of John Gibson. 

night conveyed in a private carriage of the Pope's 
to Civita Vecchia. 

* Now the Pope himself has fled from his 
emancipated Liberals. They are in — he is out. 
Numbers of his windows were broken by the 
balls, and his Latin secretary — an old man — 
killed. The Swiss were the only faithful servants. 
Since the Pope left the storm has gradually in- 
creased — still some English families have lingered 
— among them are Lord and Lady M. with their 
children. One day I was dining with them when 
their English physician entered. " What news, 
doctor ?" said her ladyship; " how are they getting 
on?" "Badly" said he, and then told us this 
story. As he was coming from St. Peter s, and 
just as he had crossed the bridge of St. Angelo, 
he saw a mob of people advancing with two 
prisoners — common-looking men — one with his 
head bound round with a bloody handkerchief. 
By this time the doctor was close to them, when 
a wretch with a bayonet came to the back of one 
of the prisoners and ran him through — the bayonet 
entering between the pelvis bone and the last rib. 
The victim fell on his face, when others fell upon 
him and kept stabbing him and also the other 
prisoner who was on the ground. There were 



A tract ties in Rome, 155 

pools of blood, and the doctor saw men, and 
women too, collecting the blood in their hands 
and washing their faces with it, clapping their 
streaming hands aloft, and crying out " Throw 
them into the Tiber." The doctor had enquired 
what they had done, and was told they were 
Jesuits in disguise. The bodies were then dragged 
by the heels upon the bridge of St. Angelo, and 
thrown over into the Tiber. So there was an 
end of them. Afterwards it was proved that the 
men were poor workmen, and slaughtered under a 
mistake. All of us listened with great attention 
to the doctor s statement, and her ladyship looked 
uncomfortable. 

* I bade good night to my lord and family and 
walked home alone. The streets at eleven o'clock 
at night were very lonely, and I met only now 
and then a single person, and no one would allow 
another to come near — but kept on one side. I 
did the same, keeping wide apart and having 
small pistols loaded — all this precaution arose 
from the fear of being stabbed. . . . 

* I will mention an incident which occurred to me 
soon after Pio Nono gave his general amnesty. At 
that period I used to dine at a trattoria in the Piazza 
di Spagna. One day, seated by my friend Penry 



156 Life of John Gibson. 

Williams, the well-known painter, I said, " Ob- 
serve that little man, how his eyes are fixed upon 
me." He was short, rich black hair and beard — 
his eyes bright. He advances right up to me. 
** Signor Gipisonl' said he, " you do not seem to 
know me." "Who are you.*^" said I. "Have 
I not waited upon you at this table three years 
ago ? " " Bentornato ! — where have you been all 
this while ? " "In the galleys," said he. " What 
for ? " " Signor Gipison, I am a Patriot" I bowed 
to him, and said ** Capisco — I suppose you are in- 
debted to Pio Nono for the liberty which you are 
now enjoying." " I am," he replied. ** I advise 
you not to lose your liberty again." I then en- 
quired of my friend where he had been im- 
prisoned. He said, **At Civita Castellana. I 
was condemned for seven years. The castle was 
crowded with political prisoners. The poor ones 
were upon short allowance — the sons of the rich 
were supplied with money and permitted to pur- 
chase what they liked." He added that he was 
himself fortunate, for having learnt a little cook- 
ing while waiting in the trattoria the gentlemen 
prisoners elected him their cook — so he was well 
off as to feeding. Then he said with an air of 
importance and affected modesty, "And, Signor 



The Little Waiter out of Prison, 157 

Giplson, I am a poet." I bowed again. He said, 
" Yes — I was elected cook and poet to the Patriots 
of Civita Castellana." "In what class of poetry 
did you exercise your talents ? " "I employed 
my humble abilities in writing epigrams." "And 
what were your subjects ? " " Liberty and 
Equality — I also touched up the Church and the 
priests — my poetry amused my fellow prisoners, 
but they did not all agree with my opinions upon 
religion. But my skill as a cook gave universal 
satisfaction." I said to him, " With respect to the 
art of cookery Athenaeus relates that there was 
once a cook in Greece who acquired great renown 
because he could roast one half of a pig, while the 
other half was boiling." "Ah! Signor Gipison, 
those ancient Greeks were great liars, but they 
could fight for liberty." . . . 

* My friend Wyatt used at that time to dine at 
a trattoria in the Via Condotti, where he made 
acquaintance with an Irish priest who had just 
come to Rome, and whom he found very gentle- 
manly and agreeable. One evening at dusk 
Wyatt and the priest came out of the trattoria 
together and bade each other good night Wyatt 
turned to the Piazza di Spagna and the priest 
walked down the Via Condotti. After proceeding 



158 Life of yohn Gibson, 

some way (as he afterwards told Wyatt) a little 
man with bright black eyes, rich black hair and 
beard, suddenly struck at his throat with a knife ; 
but the priest, equally quick, saved his throat, and 
the knife struck him in the palm of his hand. 
The assassin directly repeated the blow, and 
again the priest warded it off, and received an- 
other wound in his hand. Two young men of 
the National Guard, who saw the act at a little 
distance, ran up with their drawn swords, and the 
first who reached them cried out to the assassin, 
" If you stir I will run you through." The man 
then gave himself up. The priest, bleeding very 
much, was taken to an hospital in the Corso, 
where his wounds were dressed. One day the 
priest was summoned to attend at the prison. 
He went there and was conducted to a room 
where stood a row of prisoners. He was told if 
he saw among them the man who had stabbed 
him, to go up and put his finger on him. The 
priest instantly touched one of them, and the man 
turned out to be no other than my little friend 
the waiter, cook, patriot, poet, and assassin. He 
was tried, convicted, and condemned to fifteen 
years in the galleys. This happened previous to 
the Pope's departure from Rome. 



The Prohibited Knife. 159 

*A few months after this affair, whilst I was 
dining again at the trattoria, I heard great re- 
joicings in the house, and asked a waiter what 
caused them. He replied with great excitement 
that the Government (of the Triumvirs) had 
liberated my little friend from the galleys. 
"But," said I, "he was condemned under the 
Pope s Government to fifteen years' imprison- 
ment, for attempting the life of the Irish priest" 
The fellow then said, " As it was only a priest he 
stabbed, they have liberated him." I understood 
afterwards that this rogue confessed that he 
thought the priest was an Italian. Some time 
after I heard that the little fellow had been for- 
tunate at last, for that he had gone to London 
and married a " Signora inglese." This latter 
piece of information I confess I considered to be 
untrue. 

* I once saw a procession going down the Corso 
— it was a young man upon an ass. On his 
breast was a label, on which was stated that he 
was guilty of carrying the prohibited knife. He 
was accompanied by a guard of soldiers on each 
side of him and by a crowd of people. He 
was started from the Piazza del Popolo to the 
end of the Corso, and at the Piazza di Venezia 



1 6o Life of yohn Gibson. 

there was a stage erected on which he was to 
stand for a time to be looked at When he as- 
cended the steps and got on the stage he turned 
round facing the people, raised his right hand 
aloft, with the thumb and two fingers up, and the 
third and little finger bent down, and with an air 
of benign majesty he gave the people the bene- 
diction in imitation of the Holy Father. For this 
act of impiety he was retained in prison for an 
additional term. 

* The prohibited knife is a real dagger which 
shuts up like a clasp knife, but it is made on pur- 
pose for assassination. When the state of dis- 
turbance was at its height these prohibited knives 
were publicly sold and carried about in the streets 
of Rome. I had a proof of this fact at the time in 
a rather distressing manner. One evening I was 
sitting in the cafife in the Piazza di Spagna, when 
in came a man whom I knew. He kept a shop of 
objects of virtu, and had been for years occa- 
sionally afflicted with fits of madness. Whenever 
the fit came on notice was sent to the authorities, 
and he was taken to the madhouse and kept till 
he was better. During our Republic the man was 
not taken sufficient care of. His fit had been upon 
him for some days. He recognised me in the 



The Madman. 1 6 1 

caff^, and seating himself opposite to me he began 
muttering to himself very wildly. We were seated 
on divans which went round the little room. I 
could see into the next room, and I saw a pedlar 
had just entered and put his basket on the marble 
table. The madman also saw him and went and 
looked into the basket, when suddenly I saw him 
taking out the horrid instrument of vengeance — 
the prohibited knife. The dagger glistened in the 
light — he grasped it, and fixing his eyes on me, 
advanced upon me. I turned my eyes to the right 
and the left to fly, but he was before me. I sat 
still and felt no fear — I looked at him calmly — 
when suddenly he drew back the dagger and 
struck out with it violently at me within an 
inch of my body. He then said, " Signor Pro- 
fessore, I will give you this — take it" I was 
afraid to raise my hand to receive the dagger, for 
fear he should change his mind and stab me. He 
then turned away and gave back the instrument 
into the basket 

* His attack was so sudden that no one had 
dared to move, and there was no chair or anything 
within my reach for me to defend myself. I said 
to my friends that my life hung upon a thread, 
and Dr. Albites, who sat near, observed that it 

M 



1 6 2 Life of yohn Gibson. 

was a most critical moment Although I felt no 
fear at the moment, yet when the affair was over 
and the man gone I felt cold, and a slight tremor 
came on me for a short time — yes — ^for a short 
time. 

,; * One day, sitting in my studio looking over my 
book of designs, I heard a knocking at the door — 
street door — I rose and opened it : there stood a 
man who asked permission to speak to me. He 
entered and put a letter into my hand. At once 
I considered him a beggar — I had made up 
my mind to be uncharitable. The man was well 
dressed. I opened the letter ; there were only four 
or five lines, which I read. I give it in English, 
having no copy of the letter, which I immediately 
returned to the writer. It ran as follows : 

* " I am a man of courage, and capable of 
running the risk of shedding my blood in execut- 
ing anything which may concern you, and for a 
moderate reward I am capable of keeping any 
secret — ^fuU confidence may be placed in me." 
" Did you write this ?" I said to the man. He 
was an assassin, ready for a moderate sum to stab 
or kill anyone who might be offensive to me. As 
I was alone — ^no one near — I began to fear that 
he had come to stab me ; but I had offended no 



Assassinations in Streets of Rome. 163 

one, nor was I making love to the nymph of 
another, nor had I any enemy whom I wished to 
put out of the way. i. 

* The streets of Rome are nearly empty of all 
natives at an early hour of an evening. One 
night a friend of mine — a Roman painter of merit 
— told me that he was going to his home along 
the Corso about midnight, when his attention was 
arrested by a faint voice. He then saw a man 
lying full length in the middle of the street ; the 
man said, "I am stabbed, and cannot move." He 
was faint from loss of blood, and was afraid a 
carriage might drive over him. He begged my 
friend to drag him to the footpath. My friend 
instantly took him by the ankles and dragged him 
to the side, and then walked off as quick as 
possible. " But why did you leave him so ?" I 
said. He then explained that had he been seen 
with the wounded man, and had the poor man 
expired, he should have been arrested, and con- 
fined a considerable time to be examined ; to avoid 
such annoyance he instantly fled.' 

Gibson's first mention of Garibaldi is in Dec. 
1848. *This independent chief is here. I saw 
him for the first time on Sunday last on the Monte 
Pincio — he rode a white horse. He is quite 

M2 



164 Life of yohn Gibson, 

young, and I have seldom seen a more beautiful 
head — his profile is like a statue. His dress was 
elegant — no coat, but a graceful frock or tunic of 
scarlet and a small cap ornamented with gold. On 
one side he had one of his cavalry officers, and on 
the other a gentleman in black. Garibaldi was 
quite a show — everyone stopping to look at him — 
ladies particularly. As he is beautiful, lawless 
and brave, he is sure to please them. He has 
come here to try to stir up the Romans. The 
other night a Roman gentleman told me Garibaldi 
had made speeches at the popular club to a very 
large assembly. At last they roared and thun- 
dered, some holding up in the air little daggers, 
and the National Guard their swords. Another 
night at the club an Italian read out, translating 
as he went, an article from the " Times," showing 
up the Romans for the assassination of Rossi and 
for their treatment of the Pope. They were 
furious, and cried out " Morte agl' Inglesi." The 

" Times" is still flogging on Garibaldi s 

manner is frank, natural, and manly. He is much 
esteemed by his companions in arms, and every- 
body speaks of his bravery, and that he does not 
plunder to enrich himself 

Then, on Feb. 22, 1849, he writes, 'You will 



The French at Civita Vecchia. 165 

have heard that they have proclaimed a Republic. 
Every day as I go to my studio I see the Cap of 
Liberty, blood red, and two tricoloured flags on 
the top of the obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo-^- 
since then we have been quiet. How long the 
Republic is to last remains to be seen.' 

April 28, 1849. * We are in the greatest excite- 
ment here — that is our republicans — as the French 
are at Civita Vecchia. Here is a letter from Mr. 
Ben just come' (he was at Civita Vecchia for his 
health) — * he says, " Having heard so much bold 
and heroic talking, I expected to see all the fun 
and to be in the midst of shells and cannon-balls 
— but what a disappointment! This morning, 
which is fine, the first steam frigate entered the 
port at midday and landed the troops, when not a 
single musket was fired against them." Previous 
to landing the French General sent his proclama- 
tion, which was stuck upon the walls — he said the 
first cannon that fires upon the French troops will 
cost the inhabitants a million of francs. 

*We in Rome are in a fever — shouting and 
thundering " To arms, to arms ! — death to the 
priests ! — fire the churches !" Barricades are making, 
but the mass of the population are lukewarm. This 
morning all the gates are shut — they would not 



1 66 Life of John Gibson. 

allow me to go into the Villa Borghese. Mines are 
laying in the road as well as on the Ponte MoUe. 
Every horse in Rome seized. Thousands are 
praying for the quick arrival of the French. They 
fear Rome will be sacked before they come. I do 
not think so. " What will become of us, Signor 
Giovanni ? " said my landlady — meanwhile she is 
getting provisions in. . . 

* Garibaldi has just entered with all his legion. 
They look exactly like Salvator Rosa s brigands. 
They have come from the frontier on the Neapo- 
litan side. They are as dark as copper, thin, some 
with naked legs, with long beards, and wild black 
hair down their backs — brigand-pointed hats and 
black feathers. The lancers are very wild — poor, 
rough, skinny little horses. The plunder which 
followed consisted of asses, cattle, fowls, and blan- 
kets, of which latter they made a cloak by day 
and a bed by night These wild troops marched 
into the Piazza S. Silvestro, and are now quartered 
at the Convent of S. Silvestro. When they were 
drawn up before the place, out came all the nuns. 
The crowd felt compassion for the holy virgins, 
but when they saw their cocks and hens, and 
baskets of oranges, a laugh was set up. Carriages 
drove the ladies off; they were veiled up.' 



Gibson leaves Rome. 167 

When the French were within a few miles of 
Rome, Gibson, as we have seen, ran away with 
Mr. Ben to the Bagni di Lucca. He returned in 
time to see the Pope enter under the protection 
of a French army, and as long as Gibson lived 
that protection was not withdrawn. 



i68 Life of y ohn Gibson. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Pio Nonces return to Rome — Walk through the Sculpture Gal- 
leries of the Vatican — Gallery of the Capitol — Sculpture in 
the Villa Ludovisi — Bernini, 

AT the risk of some repetition I here add a 
letter to Mrs. Sandbach, describing his Ho- 
liness' entry into Rome, and at the same time 
revealing almost more than any other that quaint 
simplicity which charmed all who knew Gibson. 
* Rome, April 24th, 1850. Many thanks for your 
last letter to me ; I always remain long in your 
debt, and when 1 write it is but a poor return. 
The time is near when we shall meet once more. 
Since our last meeting what a way we have gone 
over towards that little spot in the distance — the 
grave ! Our journey there is now shorter than ever. 
Methinks I have pushed on my way very quickly. 
I shall set out on my journey to you at the end of 
this month. Williams comes with me. Mr. Ben 
I take to Florence ; then he goes to the baths of 
Lucca. 



Popes Entry into Rome. 1 69 

* I must tell you that I went out on the 12th 
inst to see the Pope enter Rome. The Romans 
were out by thousands and tens of thousands. 
His Holiness came in at the gate of S. Giovanni 
Laterano. When he appeared in the distance the 
French artillery began to thunder away, and con- 
tinued for some time to split the air and our ears. 
Our eyes were dazzled by the numerous troops of 
France — ^at last their cavalry came in, galloping 
before and behind the carriage of the Pope* It 
was a cloudy day, but the clouds made way for 
the rays of the sun to fall upon the sacred head of 
the " Father of the faithful." Behold that ill-used, 
good man, liberal and benevolent^ carried back 
into the Eternal City upon the wings of Power — 
the nations have willed it. 

* The Pope descended from his carriage cheered 
by the crowd, and amid the waving of white hand- 
kerchiefs he entered the church of S. Gipvanni. 
After his devotions he came out, and there he 
found his superb state carriage, and those of all 
the foreign ambassadors, and the Roman princes, 
and then began the splendid procession towards 
the Coliseum. I pushed on and took my stand 
to see and watch the conduct of the people — 
they all along cheered and waved their handker- 



1 70 Life of John Gibson. 

chiefs, and from every window all the way to 
St Peter s. 

* The illumination of all Rome was the most 
splendid we have ever seen, and was repeated for 
three nights. 

* Pio Nono is the first pope who has inspired 
me with feelings of warmth towards him — the 
grand improvements he was making. One proof 
of his liberal intentions was selecting Count Rossi 
for his prime minister. He was a man of first-rate 
abilities, and a well-proved Liberal. The Romans 
proved themselves unworthy of liberty — they as- 
sassinated that great man, and in an hour the Corso 
windows were waving with gay flags, and thou- 
sands were rejoicing in the streets, thus celebrating 
and rejoicing in assassination. They proved them- 
selves unworthy of liberty when they fired into 
the palace of their benefactor and shot his Latin 
secretary — and murdered harmless priests in the 
streets— and many fine things. . . 

* The doctor has not been able to cure my right 
eye — still the same — the object is misty; he 
thinks a journey would drive it away. I told 
him that I am going to England. My left eye is 
very powerful. I see the level line on white paper 
at a great distance. 



Sculpture Galleries of Rome. 171 

* In one of your letters you request me to get 
you a Roman scarf. I mentioned this to Williams ; 
he, being a painter, is a judge of colours ; but we 
decided to ask a lady friend who is rich and has 
good taste. She came ; I said to her that I am 
most ignorant of female affairs, though if Mrs. 
Sandbach dressed like a Greek lady I should know 
how to purchase the stuff, and also to cut out the 
dress and to dress her up in it better than her 
lady's maid could. Thus you must be satisfied 
with what our lady friend has chosen for you. 
When you put it on I will tell you how you look.' 

And now, after all these Roman tumults, and 
as if by way of compensating contrast, he takes the 
reader through the principal sculpture galleries of 
Rome, beginning with the Vatican — expatiating 
and explaining as he goes with a simplicity and 
earnestness which will recall to a favoured few his 
real ciceroneship through the same scenes in times 
gone by. We shall need no excuse for giving this 
part of his biographical reminiscences entire. 

* My life in Rome has always been a very happy 
one, but during the turbulent times we could not 
pursue our labours so comfortably — therefore those 
long months were the most disagreeable period of 
my Roman residence. The Muses are said to be 



172 Life of y ohn Gibson, 

silent amid the clash of arms. When the Pope 
was back, and Rome returned to its wonted state 
of serenity, we resumed our delightful labours. I 
read my books in tranquillity, and modelled with 
fresh pleasure. I then renewed my visits to the 
Vatican, refreshing my spirits in that Pantheon of 
the Gods, Demi-gods, and Heroes of Hellas. 

* These grand works of the Greeks are ever 
new, and always produce fresh enchantment But 
in order to obtain a correct perception of their 
merits, and to understand the sublime and the 
beautiful, the taste must be cultivated by long 
study and experience. To surpass the best works 
of the Greeks is a hopeless task — to approach 
them is a triumph. How few can come near 
them ! 

* The greater number of visitors who go to the 
Vatican collection spend too much of their time 
in dwelling upon inferior works — stiff, hard repe- 
titions. But the student who has acquired some 
knowledge — on entering the first beautiful gallery 
called the Braccio Nuovo — walks up at once to 
the Minerva Medica with the serpent at her feet, 
the spear in her hand, and the helmet on her head. 
That statue, in my opinion, is the finest in the 
Vatican of the draped class. The Greeks, in their 



Gallery of the Vatican. 173 

personification of Wisdom, have given us an image 
worthy of their genius and philosophy. Athena is 
beautiful, but her beauty does not affect the pas- 
sions. Her form is chaste and pure, in expres- 
sion serious and thoughtful — her attitude always 
grand and majestic. The contemplation of such 
an image purifies and elevates the mind. The 
Minerva Medica is one of the favourites of the 
judges of art. It represents Athena Polios, the 
guardian goddess of Athens. It is probably a repe- 
tition after Phidias. It was found in the circular 
building on the Esquiline Hill, commonly known 
by the name of the Temple of Minerva Medica. 

* A few feet further on is the great statue of the 
Nile, with a large family of children all playing 
round about him. These children, sixteen in 
number , are an allusion to the sixteen cubits, 
the height to which the Nile rises, arid typify the 
fertility which it spreads over the land. This 
statue was found near the church of Santa Maria 
sopra Minerva — where anciently stood the temple 
of Isis and Serapis — in the pontificate of Leo the 
Tenth, by whom it was placed in the Vatican. 

* This splendid work of art is not a repetition, 
but an original production finished by the master 
himself It is only the artist who has studied 



1 74 Life of yohn Gibson. 

Nature who can decide between an original and a 
copy. Here Nature is represented full and large, 
rather exuberant and very fleshy. The head is truly 
grand, and turns towards the left shoulder with 
a most paternal expression. The whole is in 
perfect repose. This great work was undoubtedly 
executed by some artist of no common celebrity, 
and is a noble study for the student 

* At the end of the gallery on the opposite side 
is the statue of Demosthenes. It is one of the 
finest I know, but it is a repetition. The nude 
part represents rather a lean person ; the head is 
very expressive. Let us take a cast of this beau- 
tiful statue, strip it of its drapery, and model upon 
the figure a coat and trowsers, without omitting 
the cravat. All the charm we now feel in it 
would vanish. To me it would be a disgusting 
object as a work of art 

* Opposite to the Minerva, already described, is 
a statue a little larger than life — it is called 
Modesty, and is veiled ; the same is seen on some 
medals which bear the inscription " Pudicitia." 
This figure is richly draped. The hand over the 
head holding the veil is modern and clumsy. It was 
formerly in the Villa Mattel, and was placed in the 
Vatican by Clement the Fourteenth — Ganganelli. 



Gallery of the Vatican. 175 

* We then come to a group of Silenus and the 
infant Bacchus. There is another repetition in 
the museum at Paris which is still finer than this 
in the Braccio Nuovo. Silenus holds the infant 
Bacchus in his arms, and looks at him with an 
expression of pleasure and affection ; he, as well 
as the infant, are crowned with ivy, a plant sacred 
to Bacchus. 

* Notwitstanding the destruction of Greek art 
we are still in possession of works representing 
the different characters in Nature — the highest 
ideal beauty, the heroic, and the common or rustic, 
such as we see in Fauns, Satyrs, and Silenus. 
But there is characteristic beauty in all — it is all 
selected or abstract beauty. This group of Silenus 
and the infant Bacchus, particularly the repetition 
in Paris, is a work of high excellence, and a fine 
study for the student. 

* On leaving the Braccio Nuovo we find our- 
selves in the long narrow gallery — the Museo 
Chiaramonte — ^which leads us to the celebrated 
Torso. The principal things are on our right 
hand ; among them a fine specimen of flying 
drapery — a female figure, headless, in movement. 

* Next we perceive a very striking head of 
Minerva, with glass eyes and a helmet, part of 



176 Life of y ohn Gibson, 

which is antique. There are small holes in it, 
which prove that the helmet was covered with 
plates of gold : the ears are bored, by which it 
would appear that she had been decorated with 
earrings. The ears of the Venus di Medici are 
also bored, as well as those of some other fine 
antique heads at Rome. This invaluable specimen 
of Greek art, in a perfect state of preservation, 
was found by Mr. Fagan, the British consul, in 
the ruins of ancient Laurentium. 

* The finest of the many repetitions which have 
come down to us of Cupid bending his bow, by 
Praxiteles, stood in this place. How often did we 
dwell upon it! This beautiful statue is gone — 
gone for ever from Rome. Pio Nono made a 
present of it to the Emperor of Russia. In its 
place stands another repetition, but very inferior. 

* Near the Cupid is a beautiful bust of Augustus 
when very young ; the point of the nose is restored. 
This bust was found at Ostia by Mr. Fagan in 1 800. 

* We ascend a few steps to the Vestibolo where 
the torso of Hercules, commonly called " II Torso 
di Belvedere," is placed. This fragment is esteemed 
as one of the finest monuments of Grecian art 
From the lion's skin on the thigh it is supposed to 
represent a Hercules resting after his labours. It 



The Apollo Belvedere, 177 

was the object of Michael Angelo's admiration, 
who formed his style upon it It is one of the 
few works which has come down to our time with 
the name of the artist inscribed. On the front of 
the rock on which he sits we read in Greek letters 
^'Apollonius, son of Nestor the Athenian, made 
it" It was found near the church of S. Andrea 
della Valle, where stood the theatre of Pompey. 

' Here we see too the statue of Meleager. I 
cannot admire this. To me it appears stiff, parti- 
cularly in the limbs — the head is the best part of 
this work. It was found in a vineyard out of the 
Porta Portese, and purchased by Clement XIV. 

* We now come to the Apollo Belvedere. This 
celebrated statue has been admired for upwards 
of three centuries in this very museum, and by 
the consent of all judges considered the finest of 
all the Greek specimens of ideal art which have 
been preserved to us. The god is here repre- 
sented as having discharged his arrow either at 
the Python, or into the camp of the Greeks, as 
described by Homer, or it may be against the im- 
pious giants* The swelling of the nostrils and 
the disdain on the lip are so delicately expressed 
that the beauty of the divine countenance is un- 
disturbed What judgment this required! and 



178 Life of yohn Gibson. 

what a specimen it gives us of Greek refinement 
No description in prose or poetry can impress the 
mind with an image of sublimity as this statue 
does. The form is refined to the highest degree 
of beauty, even celestial beauty. The artist who 
is not alive to the perfection of this marvellous 
statue should never attempt to give a representa- 
tion of the archangel Michael. The Apollo was 
found at Antium, about twenty-four miles from 
Rome, a place famous in history from a favourite 
palace of the Caesars built there, which was 
decorated with some of the noblest monuments 
of Grecian art. This statue was the property of 
Julius II. before he ascended the Papal throne, 
and was placed by him in the Vatican. 

* The Laocoon. This group is spoken of by 
Pliny the Elder as a first-rate work of art. It was 
discovered in the time of Michael Angelo (1505) 
in a vineyard near Rome, and immediately iden- 
tified as the same mentioned by Pliny. The 
management of the composition and treatment of 
the forms is worthy of the great school of Grecian 
art The expression of suffering pervades every 
feature and limb. It is the united work of three 
artists of the school of Rhodes — a father and two 
sons — Agesander, Polidorus, and Athenodorus. 



Gallery of the Vatican, 179 

The school of Rhodes was very famous about a 
hundred years before the Christian era. 

* Mercury. This fine statue was known as * the 
Antinous of the Vatican' till the renowned anti- 
quary Visconti came forth and pronounced it to be 
Mercury. It is true that the usual attributes of the 
Messenger of the Gods are wanting here, and that 
the forms are too robust, but Visconti has met this 
objection by recognising him here in his character 
of the presiding God of the Gymnasium. Some 
repetitions have also been found which retain parts 
of the Caduceus, and another which has part of 
the wings at the ankles. This statue was so 
admired by Nicolas Poussin that he made it his 
standard of proportion. It was found in the Baths 
of Hadrian near S. Martino in Monte, about three 
centuries ago. 

* Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus in the island 
of Naxos. This magnificent statue had long been 
known by the name of Cleopatra. This was 
owing to the serpent-bracelet on her wrist, which 

' antiquaries had mistaken for the asp. But Vis- 
conti has settled the question in favour of Ariadne, 
who, oppressed and afflicted, has laid herself down 
on the shore. Sleep has stolen upon her senses, 
but it is not the sleep of a tranquil mind; her 

N 2 



1 8o Life of yohn Gibson. 

attitude suggests restlessness, and the upper part 
of the dress is somewhat disordered, exposing her 
lovely bosom and part of the body. This statue 
is in the highest style of art and admirably com-- 
posed, natural and graceful. The contemplation 
of this grand work is always a new pleasure. It 
was deposited in the Vatican by Julius II., and was 
one of the first placed there. It is not known 
where it was found. The sarcophagus on which 
it stands describes a subject seldom met with — 
the War of the Giants. 

* Apollo Sauroctonos. The original was in 
bronze, by Praxiteles, and is mentioned by Pliny. 
Several copies of this most graceful statue have 
come down to us, and one in bronze in the Villa 
Albani is smaller than those in marble. The 
forms of this figure are refined to the highest 
degree of beauty and delicacy, and the composition 
is in accordance with the laws of art. The left 
arm leaning on the tree is extended forward, 
whilst the foot on the same side retreats back; 
the right arm forms an angle over the right 
standing leg, and the head turns gracefully over 
the shoulder most elevated. This arrangement 
produces balance, grace, and perfect harmony 
throughout the whole, and is at the same time 



Gallery of the Vatican. 1 8 1 

natural and easy. This repetition waa found in 
the Palatine Hill in 1777. 

* In the same gallery with the Ariadne we come 
to a very favourite work, generally called " II 
Genio del Vaticano." It is a half figure of Cupid 
— as a grown-up youth. There exist two other 
repetitions of the same. One of my greatest 
delights is to contemplate this fragment It is 
impossible to imagine a countenance more lovely, 
pure, serene, and spiritually beautiful. How 
luxurious are his waving curls round his soft neck, 
how graceful the inclined position of the head. I 
have no doubt that this statue represents Celestial 
Cupid, and Visconti believes it to be after 
Praxiteles. 

* We leave Celestial Eros with reluctance, and 
after passing some fine works we are rivetted to 
the spot by a beautiful statue of an Amazon. The 
lover of sculpture is here struck by the power of 
the Greek artist in blending severity of character 
and strength with the female form. The face is 
grave, and seems incapable of tender emotion — 
yet beautiful. The shoulders are somewhat broad, 
and the left breast, which is exposed, is small, not 
prominent The arms and limbs are particularly 
fine. The tunic is a specimen of the dress which 



1 82 Life of yohn Gibson. 

the Amazons are supposed to have worn, and is 
in numerous crisp folds, giving breadth to the 
flesh. The style of this statue is worthy of the 
school of Phidias. The tunic is darker than the 
flesh, and Visconti believes that it was painted. 
Since the time of Visconti many fragments of 
statues have been found with colour on them. 

' Close to the Amazon are the figures of Me- 
nandro and Poseidippos, sitting in chairs. They 
are admirable specimens of portrait statues, true 
to nature in character and action. 

* Opposite the fragment of Celestial Cupid is a 
statue of a young Faun, resting with his bent arm 
on the trunk of a tree, holding his pipe in his 
hand. He has ceased to play, and there is mirth 
and good nature in his youthful face. Although 
a rustic he is full of beauty. The whole figure is 
in perfect ease, and the relaxed leg and foot are 
beautifully negligent, in keeping with his character. 
The longer we look at this admirable work the 
more we agree with Visconti that it is a copy from 
the celebrated Faun by Praxiteles ; the repetitions 
of this figure are numerous, but this is the finest of 
them all. When several copies of the same work 
have been found it is reasonable to infer that 
the original must have been popular. There 



Gallery of the Vatican. 183 

are four or five repetitions of the Venus of Praxi- 
teles. 

* We here enter a small circular room, the archi- 
tecture of which is very elegant and rich — the 
ceiling is painted, and the mosaic floor is antique. 
There are a few fine works here, but that which 
gives me particular pleasure is the statue of the 
crouching Venus— or, it may be, a nymph at the 
bath. This work is so fleshy and beautiful that I 
am inclined to think it an original; there are 
repetitions to be found elsewhere, but they are 
inferior to this. Among the vast number of 
ancient statues that have descended to us there 
are very few represented in a doubled-up or 
crouching attitude. Such positions are unfavour- 
able to the display of long, graceful lines, nor are 
the proportions seen to advantage. The figure is 
here natural, but both the arms as well as the 
knees form angles, and cover the front of the 
body. Still we admire this great favourite. 

' Passing through the small circular room of the 
nine Muses, with their leader, Apollo Musigetes, 
we enter the great Rotunda, which contains large 
statues of high merit On the right is a colossal 
statue of Jove, a sublime production, on which 
we may meditate. The Pagans represented the 



I $4 Life of John Gibson. 

Divinity under a human form — ^we see also God 
painted and sculptured in the Roman Catholic 
churches. This image of Jove, produced by a 
Greek artist, strikes us with the idea of the highest 
sublimity and beauty — ^beauty unfading. The ex- 
pression is paternal and venerable, yet ever young. 
How rich are his ambrosial locks ! Power, bene- 
volence, majesty, and beauty are combined in this 
Greek work. The Christian artist's idea of God 
is not so lofty — they represent Him as an aged 
man, with a certain vigour and action, but time has 
diminished His strength and beauty ,* you feel 
that He is in the decline of age. He is a grand 
old man and nothing more. The Greek artists 
were enlightened by the philosophers — the gods 
personified by the sculptors were pure, passionless, 
and beautiful. The poets were not so elevated in 
their conceptions ; they made them beautiful and 
mighty, but with human propensities and sen- 
sations. Aries roared aloud with pain, and 
Aphrodite suffered when wounded. 

* Our artistic ambition becomes often depressed 
in the contemplation of these wonderful works. 
In the art of sculpture the Greeks were gods. 
We, with all our efforts, find it hard toil to creep 
upwards after them. The eminence on which 



Gallery of the Vatican. 185 

they stand is beyond our reach. Still the sculptor, 
duly imbued with the principles of his art, struggles 
on, and feels delight in his labours — for the study 
of the beautiful is his profession. 

' In the Vatican we go from statue to statue, 
from fragment to fragment, like the bee from 
flower to flowen How enchanting is the Dis- 
cobolus of Naucydes of Argos! The original 
does not exist, but the repetition in the circular 
room of the Biga is the best of those that remain. 
This beautiful work is admired for the natural 
action and the graceful play of all its movements, 
and for its broad style and fine proportions. He 
is in the act of indicating the distance before 
throwing his discus. In this composition neither 
of the arms cross the body. When the action 
represented permits the display of the front of the 
figure it is most favourable to beauty and grace. 
Such is the arrangement in the Apollo, and in 
most fine statues. 

* In the same room is the Discobolus of Myron, 
in the act of throwing his discus, mentioned by 
Greek writers. A man could not sustain such a 
position ; it represents a momentary action, which 
the sculptor must have often seen, and is perfectly 
true to nature. The modern head of this repeti- 



1 86 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

tion turns from the discus, but that in the Palazzo 
Massimi is the most valuable. The head there 
has remained entire, and turns back towards the 
discus. 

* In this room also is a statue of Bacchus — a 
very fine work — which shows in great perfection 
his double character, that is, the combination of 
the male and female form. A Greek writer says 
that when the god appeared among men he 
looked like a woman, when among women like a 
youth. 

* From the apartment of the Biga, turning to 
the right and passing through the iron gate, we 
find ourselves in a long gallery full of statues and 
fragments. Those who are capable of judging 
will soon perceive the master mind in a very 
mediocre performance. It is a basso-rilievo on 
the front of a sarcophagus to the left. It repre- 
sents the destruction of Niobe and her children. 
Apollo and Diana are discharging their fatal 
arrows upon them, and Niobe is seen folding her 
youngest daughter to her lap and with her left 
hand raising her mantle to shield her. Even in 
the midst of all this scene of terror and wild 
despair, the dying and the dead — all her own 
children — her action is dignified. The action of 



Gallery of the Capitol. 187 

every figure is true to nature. The original must 
have been the production of a great master, and 
in the best period of art 

' Here is also another sarcophagus on which is 
sculptured in basso-rilievo a tragical event re- 
nowned in Greek myth. The subject is Orestes 
assisted by his friend Pylades, while punishing his 
mother Clytemnestra with death for the murder of 
his father Agamemnon. Orestes was commanded 
by the oracle to execute this unnatural act, and 
Pylades at the same time slew* Egistheus the 
seducer of Clytemnestra. The obedience of 
Orestes to the oracle brought upon him instant 
retribution. The dreadful Furies pursued him 
and drove him to madness. At last he received 
mercy and was restored to peace. This basso- 
rilievo must also have been the conception of a 
great artist. There is an antique repetition of 
this same work in the wall of a house here — ^also 
one in the cortile of the Palazzo Giustiniani. 

* As I take delight in bassi-rilievi we will now 
pay a visit to the Capitol and examine a sarco- 
phagus on which is represented the battle of the 
Greeks and Amazons. The composition is full 
of animation and masterly grouping. The portion 
on the left was copied by Flaxman, who at his 



1 88 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

lectures gave it as a specimen of the beautiful con- 
catenation of arms and legs. In this respect too 
Flaxman was very clever, as we observe in his 
admirable compositions. 

* Here also is a fine basso-rilievo of Endymion 
asleep whilst his faithful dog is on the watch. It 
is a first-rate work. 

* We have in Rome hundreds of bassi-rilievi — 
but of inferior sculpture. The study of the reliefs 
of the Elgin marbles enables us now to distinguish 
the pure style di this class of art from the corrupt 
and degenerate. We have scarcely any speci- 
mens at Rome of the chaste flat manner of the 
Athenian school Over one of the fireplaces at 
the Villa Albani, there is a very beautiful flat 
relief, representing Orpheus, Eurydice, and Mer- 
cury. A repetition of it is at Naples. There is 
a pure specimen at Grotta Ferrata — ^a beardless 
philosopher seated — in alto-rilievo, but at the 
same time flat, a most valuable specimen. It is 
also interesting as having been found at the spot 
where Cicero's villa is supposed to have stood. I 
must not forget to name an alto-rilievo over 
another fireplace in the Villa Albani, of Antinous. 
It is perfectly beautiful, and I believe Winckelmann 
considered it equal to the Apollo for style. The 



The Dying Gladiator. 1 89 

execution of the hair is perfect. Here is also a 
large alto-rilievo, figures nearly life size — a young 
hero on the ground defending himself, whilst the 
victor, on a horse, is giving him a blow with his 
sword. This work is pure Athenian. 

' Returning to works in the round, the Capitol 
contains a noble study for the artist — the statue 
called " The Dying Gladiator." We perceive here 
an original work ; not a repetition, and by a great 
master. But there is no name upon it. Common 
nature is here admirably modelled. The head is 
of a low type, with high cheek bones, short flat 
nose and a moustache. The Greeks represented 
the barbarians less beautiful than themselves. The 
action of this figure, while perfectly natural, is at 
the same time full of variety from the judicious 
arrangement of all its parts. It tells its own tale> 
and affects you at once. As you gaze upon him 
sympathy creeps over your senses. He bleeds — 
his life flows slowly away — silent and calm — he is 
sinking — will faint and die ! I have heard some 
persons say that Greek art wants expression. 
They want perception. The natural and expressive 
touches the heart — keeps you upon earth — it is 
the ideal only that can elevate the soul ; thus this 
statue has many more admirers than the Apollo 



1 90 Life of John Gibson. 

Belvedere, which proves that the most sublime 
and refined beauty does not so readily impress the 
general beholder. The Apollo is unearthly, and 
has only that degree of expression which angels 
deign to show. The anger of the god is so slight, 
you think it gone. 

* In the same room is a fine portrait statue of 
Zeno. The figure is a remarkable specimen of the 
imitation of common nature, and the drapery is 
very good. There is also a large bust here, 
greatly admired, which goes under the name of 
Ariadne, but it is, as Winckelmann says, Dionysos 
(Bacchus). 

' The statue called Flora is a fine example of 
drapery. In the next room we admire the statue 
of an Amazon. It is a repetition, the same as 
that in the Vatican. The original must have been 
a first-rate work. In this room there are two 
statues of Centaurs ; small — in black marble : they 
are of high excellence, and were found in the villa 
of Hadrian. They are the works of Papia and 
Aristea. Their names are inscribed in Greek. 

* Here is a group of a child playing with a swan 
— a repetition of it is in the Vatican. This little 
work is very clever in composition, and very na- 
tural. The plump little fellow has his arms tight 



Statue of Agrippina. 191 

round the neck of the swan, pulling it back with 
all his might, while the bird is pushing itself for- 
ward. This gives contrary action, variety, and 
great animation to the whole. The struggle is 
great on both sides. Winckelmann thinks that 
this group is not by a great Greek artist because 
they would not condescend to copy infantine forms, 
which are nothing more than lumps of fat. The 
great sculptors of our own day rarely sculpture fat 
children. Statues of babies are subjects only for 
women to admire — which they always do. 

* In the next room we are struck with admira- 
tion of the seated figure of Agrippina, wife of 
Germanicus, and mother of Nero. Can we con- 
template the noble representation of this lady 
without remembering her sufferings and tragical 
fate. Canova could not resist adopting the noble, 
natural, and graceful attitude of this figure in his 
portrait statue of Napoleon's mother, which is in 
the collection of the Duke of Devonshire. 

* In this collection there is another Amazon ; 
different from those already mentioned. This one 
is represented wounded under the right breast; 
with her left hand she presses part of her dress 
to the wound. How natural is the lifting of the 
right arm to enable her better to see the wound. 



192 Life of John Gibson. 

* The collection of busts in the Capitol is very 
rich, and most interesting^ 

* The collection of sculpture in the Villa Ludo- 
visi is small. The principal work there is a large 
group representing a barbarian chief in the act of 
killing himself, after having first put his wife to 
death, who is just breathing her last He has still 
hold of her while she is sinking on her knees with 
her drooping head and closing eyes. She seems 
to have received death at the hands of her husband 
with resignation. This scene is supposed to take 
place on the field of battle — ^the hero is vanquished. 
This work has been called Psetus and Arria. I 
will venture to say that there is a fault in the com- 
position of this group, namely in the manner of 
raising the hand in order to plunge the weapon 
into his throat This action hides the face of the 
man from those who view the work in front It 
is a law in this species of composition that the 
front view of a group shall be uninterrupted and 
not cut up by any crossing of parts. We know that 
groups in the round cannot be equally perfect in 
all views. The most difficult thing in our art is 
the composition of a group. The inexperienced 
sculptor attempts it more readily than one who 
has worked longer. 



Sculpture in the Villa Ludovisi. 1 93 

* The next group we admire is that of a woman 
conversing with a youth younger than herself. 
The woman has her hair cropped short, a sign of 
mourning. On that account it is supposed to 
represent Electra and Orestes. The drapery is 
good, and the form of the youth in fine style. 

* The statue of a young man is also admired. 
He is seated, with his hands clasped over his bent 
knee, and with a sword. It is supposed to repre- 
sent Mars. Cupid is crouched at his foot The 
workmanship is fine, and the countenance noble. 

* The colossal head of Juno in Greek marble is 
highly admired for its divine beauty. The nose 
has never been injured, which is rare in an antique 
statue. This splendid work is a most valuable 
study. There are many other statues of great 
interest in the Ludovisi collection. Also a group 
by a modern sculptor, life size, representing Pluto 
carrying off Proserpine. It is the work of Bernini. 
To see this group, which is a good specimen of 
this master, by the side of the pure Greek works, 
is valuable to the artist. It is like seeing vice and 
virtue in juxtaposition.' 



o 



194 Z.//9 of John Gibson. 



CHAPTER IX. 

Illftess and Death of Mr, Benjamin Gibson — Death of Mrs, 

Sandbach, 

WE must now advert to that gentle and 
learned man Mr. Benjamin Gibson, called 
by his brother * my classical dictionary/ He had 
joined our sculptor in Rome, and lived with him 
about fourteen years. The brothers were deeply 
attached to each other, and had many points of 
character in common — the same serenity of mind, 
the same one-sidedness and simplicity. Benjamin 
was of great use to John in solving classical ques- 
tions, and was an archaeologist of no mean order ; 
he also modelled ; but he was far less robust than 
his brother, and in 1847 ^^ declining state of his 
health began to form an occasional topic in Gib- 
son's letters. The first mention is humorously 
characteristic of both men. It is to Mrs. Sandbach. 
* Rome, March 6, 1847. The basso-rilievo of the 
Hours* (for Lord Fitzwilliam) *has so absorbed 
all my soul and body that I have been as if shut 
up from the world, and from all that belongs to it 



Illness of Mr. Ben, 195 

Still, mortality must come and interrupt me, and 
disturb my happy dreams. I, who have no wife 
nor child, nor dog nor cat to draw my thoughts 
away from my art, have my brother, Mr. Ben, to 
trouble me. He has been ill for weeks, got a bad 
cold, and would take no remedy, have no doctor. 
Nothing would he do. In the meantime a large 
swelling came on his right side, external ; so I 
pounced upon him with Dr. Pantaleoni, who has 
much practice here with the English. . . • 

' My present work, the model of the Hours, will 
be finished in three weeks. I have never done a 
work which has given me more pleasure than this. 
The learned and the unlearned seem struck with 
it Wyatt says it is full of go» I work at it with 
delight, except my fits of trouble about Mr. Ben. 
" You see," I said to him, " the consequence of 
rejecting all medical aid." " Pago la pena," he 
replied* I consider Mr. Ben as one of the most 
amiable of human beings — too good for this world, 
but he will take no care against colds, and when 
ill he is a stubborn animal. However now he 
does everything Pantaleoni orders.' 

Later in the same summer Gibson expresses as 
much anxiety as was his wont to express about 
anything not of marble — his brother s state was 

o 2 



196 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

more critical ; nevertheless he adds, * Mr. Ben is 
writing his article upon the tomb found by Sir 
Charles Fellowes in Lycia, and seems wonderfully 
unconcerned about himself In November 1847, 
on Gibson s return from England, he found him 
better, but careless as before about cold. ' I will not 
allow Mr. Ben to go to these cold galleries — it is 
then he coughs — he would go directly if I were 
not on the watch.' It was like one child watching 
another and expressing its sentiments with most 
unsensational coolness of speech, though ever act- 
ing with infinite tenderness. * Mr. Ben is better — 
comes to the studio, and will work — he suffers 
night and day, but bears it with tranquillity. I 
still fear that this is the illness that will carry him 
off, but I think when his death comes he will go 
calmly and quite reconciled. When he does 
go he will have left a bad world.' Then on 
Feb. 22, 1849, he writes from Civita Vecchia, 
* The doctor is the cause of my coming here, to 
see if the sea air will save Mr. Ben, who is very 
bad, consuming away every day. For many 
months we thought he would get well, but this 
has been lately a very cold season, and it is the 
keen air has re-attacked him. We have only been 
here two days, and it is warm and delightful. He 



Illness of Mr. Ben. 197 

may recover, but still I fear his days are few — 
when speaking he stops at every word — so little 
force left' 

When Gibson ran away from Rome to Leghorn 
in June 1849, Mr. Ben was still at Civita Vecchia. 
There his malady assumed a distressing form, of 
which Gibson gives a diagnosis in a letter to his 
friend Miss Parkes, June 19, 1849. * He was 
more than two months at Civita Vecchia for the 
sea air, which did him good — but a swelling came 
over the lower rib — at his waist — rather in front, 
of a dark purple colour, and so painful, night and 
day. At last he could no longer walk — worse and 
worse — and more reduced than ever. So, from 
Leghorn I sailed to Civita Vecchia and brought 
him away — that is to Leghorn. And an hour 
after our arrival I fetched an English doctor, who 
operated immediately and attended afterwards. 
As Mr. Ben could not walk I drove him out 
every evening in an open carriage along the sea- 
side. He improved, but the heat became very 
great, and began to make me ill too. So we left 
Leghorn, and here we are at the Bagni di Lucca, 
and Mr. Ben is getting vastly better and stronger. 
For -months he has not been able to dress or un- 
dress himself, so I engaged a servant man at 



1 98 Life of John Gibson. 

Rome to attend him, and this man is with us here 
— and he is excellent ; so quiet and attentive. 

* My landlady at Rome said to me one day that 
she never knew such a being as **Signor Benia- 
mino;" during the two years that he has been 
suffering he has never uttered one word of com- 
plaint' 

This good man died in August 185 1, at the 
Baths of Lucca — during Gibson's absence in Eng- 
land. He tripped over a stone in walking, fell on 
his head, and died immediately. Gibson felt the 
loss in his simple way deeply. ' When alone and 
in bed I think of nothing but of poor Ben. How 
am I to conquer mortal feelings "i ' 

Gibson raised a simple monument to his brother, 
with an epitaph which had no exaggeration. * He 
resided fourteen years at Rome, where his learn- 
ing, amiability y and virttce made him beloved and 
revered! And he proposed to add as an appro- 
priate text, */ thank my God upon every remetn- 
brance of thee! But in the Italy of that time, as 
in Rome still now, no stone marking the grave of 
a Protestant could bear an inscription without the 
permission of the Censor. And it is worthy of 
remark that this text was interdicted. Gibson 
says, * I knew that no passage expressive of salva- 



Successive Bereavements. 1 99 

tion would be allowed, but now they have become 
more rigorous and will not permit any passage at 
all from Scripture to be put upon the tombs of 
Protestants/ It was a strange retaliation by which 
those who have been most anxious to present the 
Holy Scriptures to Italy were denied the smallest 
quotation from it on their own tombs ! 

Meanwhile another bereavement was preparing 
for Gibson. Mrs. Sandbach was struggling with 
one of the most painful ills to which flesh is heir. 
Hopes and fears alternate in his letters to her — 
hope predominating — for his mind readily threw 
oif what was uncongenial. In one of his last 
letters to her— March 1852 — is this passage: 'I 
shall be very anxious to hear how you get on. 
Oh ! do not join the angels yet — we shall weep 
bitter tears whenever you do join them. How 
wrong of us ! How difficult to conquer our 
nature!' On June ist he started for England, 
but he did not see the sweet lady again. She 
joined * the glorious company ' on the 23rd of 
June. 

To those who doubted whether Gibson had deep 
feelings the following pathetic extract may be con- 
vincing. It is addressed to Miss Lloyd, a mutual 
friend of Mrs. Sandbach and himself. * Eartham, 




200 Life of John Gibson, 

20th August, 1852. . . The moment I arrived in 
London, I wrote to Mr. Sandbach to say that 
I was ready to start for Hafodunos — that I waited 
to hear from him. When he mentioned me to her 
she said, " It is too late ; give my dear love to him 
— I hope we shall meet in heaven." She died 
that same night at two o'clock — in her sleep — 
never awoke. 

' After she was buried Mr. Sandbach wished 
me to go there to him, but I could not rouse my- 
self to go to the dwelling of the departed One — to 
sit in her room — every room of hers a desert — 
every chair empty of her dear self — the flower 
garden without her — the trees under which we so 
often sat casting their shade over her empty seat 
No, I could not go there, nor can I escape the 
gloomy, heavy desolation which hangs over me, 
follows me like my shadow wherever I go.' 



20I 



CHAPTER X. 

Prospects of high-class Sculpture in England — A Roman Educa 
Hon — Proceedings at Academy of St, Luke — Group of the 
Queen — Statue of Venus — Gibson as Pygmalion — Colour — 
Statue of Pandora — of Bacchus — Portrait Statue Coloured — 
Exhibition of 1862 — Memorial to Prirue Consort, 

AS one object of Gibson's autobiographical 
notes was to plead the necessity for a dif- 
ferent mode of study as regards English students 
of sculpture, we feel it right, as we have said 
before, to give the impressions which the public 
monuments in London made upon him after his 
long residence in Rome. 

* The prospect of advancing sculpture of a high 
class in England seems to me to be far distant. 
If I saw a young sculptor of ardent ambition I 
should tell him from my experience what would be 
necessary to become great in the higher walks of 
the art — namely a Roman education for several 
years, under the tuition of a great master. At the 
age of thirty he ought to be prepared by his ac- 
quired knowledge and practice to begin a work 
for posterity. The greatest sculptors of this age 
have studied at Rome. The Governments of all 



202 Life of yohn Gibson. 

the chief countries of Europe, excepting that of 
England, send pensioned students to Rome,* and 
that is why the style of the public monuments in 
my own country is generally so feeble. The 
English Government spends large sums to erect 
public monuments, but contributes nothing towards 
the training of the student. . . 

* During my visits to England I have acquired 
a knowledge of the state of sculpture there, and of 
the manner in which the commissions for public 
monuments are conducted; and I feel myself jus- 
tified in expressing my sentiments freely, however 
presumptuous and ungracious they may be con- 
sidered by some. If I can direct attention to a 
most fatal impediment to the advancement of 
the art of sculpture in our country I ought to do so 
boldly. 

* Speaking from an experience of forty years' 
study and practice at Rome, where I had also the 
advantage of intercourse with the greatest artists 
and most enlightened connoisseurs, I have come 
to the conviction that one great evil as regards 
the art in England arises from the class of com- 
mittee to which the decision in such matters is 

* Gibson appends the following list of those who send, or did 
send, pensioned students to Rome : France, Austria, Prussia, 
Saxony, Russia, Tuscany, Naples, Carrara, Spain, Mexico, Den- 
mark, Sweden, Belgium. 



Committees, 203 

entrusted. These committees are composed of 
miscellaneous individuals, united only in the com- 
mon qualification of having no knowledge of or 
connexion with the art beyond that which most 
educated individuals possess. In the course of 
my life, however, I have never known anyone who 
has not been professionally engaged in the study 
of art capable of j udging of grandeur of style, of 
composition, of harmony of lines, and of the intri- 
cacies of drapery. Yet the judges appointed to 
decide upon the models submitted for the Wel- 
lington monument had, on that important occasion, 
not a single sculptor among them. At the same 
time not one of the celebrated sculptors of 
Europe sent models there. 

* At the Academy of St. Luke (in Rome) the 
system of competition for public monuments is 
condemned. It is known that the greatest sculp- 
tors will not compete, and for two reasons — firstly 
because they are much employed, and secondly be- 
cause they will not enter into competition with 
young men unknown to fame. Competition is 
calculated to bring forth only mediocrity. 

* I take this occasion to mention the mode of 
proceeding at the Academy of St Luke when the 
members are required to pronounce judgment on 
the specimens of sculpture and painting offered for 



204 Life of John Gibson. 

the prizes. All the academicians — painters as well 
as sculptors — assemble and examine the models. 
When it is time to decide which specimen of mo- 
delling is entitled to the prize, the secretary rings 
his little bell, and all the painters retire, leaving the 
sculptors to make up their minds alone ; for the 
latter do not consider that painters are competent 
to assist them. When the turn of the painters 
come, they in like manner exclude the sculptors — 
each is judged by his own profession. 

* From my long experience of the Academy of 
St Luke, my conviction is that they discharge 
their respective duties with ability and fairness, 
being always tenacious of the honour of the body. 
Frequently designs from the Roman provinces 
are sent here for judgment, and I have never heard 
any dissatisfaction expressed. The members are 
composed principally of Italians, with a few French- 
men and Germans, and one Englishman — that is 
myself At present Tenerani is the president; 
he was a pupil of Thorwaldsen. I consider him 
one of the first sculptors now in Europe. His 
style is pure and beautiful, but the works which 
will consign his name to posterity are chiefly of a 
religious character. He has also executed a few 
classical subjects which are worthy of the highest 



Group in Princes Chamber. 205 

commendation, while his portrait statues are of 
first-rate excellence/ . . . 

* I will now return to my own works. In 
1850 I was informed that it was intended to 
erect a statue of Her Majesty within the Houses 
of Parliament — to be placed in a recess in the 
Prince s Chamber. I was told at the same time 
that it was desired that I should turn my 
thoughts to the treatment of the subject The 
original scheme was for a single statue, but 
Prince Albert, on inspecting the recess intended 
for it, pronounced it to be too wide for a single 
figure. He was right His Royal Highness there- 
fore, in the character of President of the Commis- 
sion for the decoration of the Houses of Parlia 
ment, proposed that two allegorical figures should 
be added, so as to form an important group. I 
accordingly sent a design from Rome representing 
Her Majesty seated upon her throne, with her 
sceptre in her left hand, and a laurel crown — the 
emblem of the reward of merit — in her right On 
her right hand the figure of Wisdom, on her left 
that of Justice. These figures stand a little below 
the throne, giving a pyramidical form to the group. 
Certain geometrical forms are necessary in com- 
position. After this design had been considered, 



2o6 Life o/yohn Gibson. 

his Royal Highness suggested that, the Sovereign 
being a lady, the figure of Wisdom might be ex- 
changed for that of Clemency. I was pleased 
with this correction, and so were others who were 
entitled to give an opinion. Considering the im- 
portance of the work it was necessary that I should 
come to England to confer face to face with the 
architect on the size of the statues and on other 
points. On arriving in London Sir Charles Barry 
assigned me a small room in the great building to 
make my sketch-model, which I completed in a 
month. Prince Albert watched my progress in 
the work, coming occasionally with members of 
the Government, and pointing out to them what 
he considered its merits. This model was adopted 
by the Commission, and I was authorised to ex- 
ecute the work. No limit as to time was assigned 
me — a condition to which I had always felt the 
greatest objection — and I completed the monu- 
ment in five years. It stands in the Prince's 
Chamber, where it receives a fine light, which is 
of the first importance for sculpture. Sir Charles 
Barry had proportioned the figures well to the 
size of the room — the large dimensions have an 
imposing effect, and I am happy that my work 
is so well seen. 



Group in Princes Chamber. 207 

* I now venture to make a few remarks on this 
work, even at the risk of their subjecting me to 
the charge of vanity. I think that the monu- 
ment of the Queen in the Parliament House is 
worthy the consideration of all home-bred English 
sculptors. It is a specimen from the Roman 
school, that great college to which, as I have said, 
all European Governments, England excepted, 
send pensioned students. In this group I have 
aimed at the highest style of monumental art — 
severe simplicity, rich and broad drapery, and 
correctness of outline throughout the whole. I 
was requested to write a description of the group 
for visitors to read when surveying the monument 
I wrote the following. 

' ** In the Prince s Chamber is represented in 
marble her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, 
sitting upon her throne, holding her sceptre and 
a laurel crown — that is, governing and rewarding. 
The back of the throne is surmounted by lions, 
expressive of British strength and courage, and 
the footstool is adorned by sea-horses, to signify 
dominion upon the ocean. The horse is an 
emblem of war. On the right of the Sovereign 
stands Justice; on the left Clemency. Justice 
holds the sword and balance — round her neck is 



2o8 Life o/yohn Gibson. 

suspended the image of Truth. In Egypt die 
judge, when pronouncing the sentence of death, 
put on his neck a small golden image of Truth. 
The expression of Justice is inflexible,* while that 
of Clemency is full of sympathy and sadness — 
sad for the constant sins that come to her 
knowledge, while with lenity she keeps the sword 
sheathed and offers the olive-branch, the sign of 
peace. On the front of the pedestal is a bas-relief 
of Commerce. On the right side is Science de- 
signated by a youth pondering over geometry. On 
the left a figure denoting the useful arts. In the 
background are represented the steam-engine, the 
telegraph-wire, and other objects. The figures are 
colossal ; that of Her Majesty being eight feet high 
— the two supporting figures are above seven." . . . 
* After Rome had subsided into quiet under the 
presence of French troops, Mr. Joseph Neeld came 
to Rome and frequently visited my studio. At 
last he expressed a wish to have a statue by my 
hand. The subject he chose was a Venus — to be 
represented nude, but with some drapery modestly 
arranged, without sacrificing too much of the form. 
After Mr. Neeld s departure this subject began to 

*-He told a friend that a woman who sold fruit in the market, 
opposite the Pantheon, served him as a model for his Justice. 



Statue of Uenus, 209 

occupy my thoughts by day and by night, as all 
the works I have executed have done. I chose 
a standing position, as most favourable for the 
figure, and for the display of long, flowing lines. 
As to the action I had often remarked that ladies 
when holding a fan or any light object generally 
place their hands in repose in front of the person. 
Thus I made my Venus stand, with the golden 
apple, which she holds quietly in her left hand. 
From her left arm hangs her garment reaching to 
the ground, but this is not merely a piece of 
drapery, it is the tunic-mantle (Chitonopheros) 
worn by the Greek ladies, which I cut out for the 
purpose. It is so arranged as to cover modestly 
the figure, not placed as if purposely to conceal, 
but falling accidentally. 

* Before this statue left my studio, a gentleman 
came to Rome — Mr. Preston of Liverpool — with 
his young wife. They desired to have a repetition 
of the Goddess of Love and Beauty. This repe- 
tition I kept in hand for five years, working on 
the marble whenever I felt disposed, and referring 
often to nature. Thus it became, I may say, the 
most carefully laboured work I ever executed, for 
I wrought the forms up to the highest standard 
of the ideal. As I laboured on, ever panting for 

p 



2 1 o Life of yohn Gibson. 

perfection, I fixed so many degrees of the circle 
for the curves and forms, and the fewer the 
degrees, the more refined and soft the undulat- 
ing lines became. The following passage from 
Winckelmann was always in my mind. " The 
forms of a beautiful body are determined by lines 
the centre of which is constantly changing, and 
which, if continued, would never describe circles. 
They are consequently more simple, but also 
more complex than a circle which, however large 
or small it may be, always has the same centre, 
and either includes others or is included in others. 
This diversity was sought after by the Greeks in 
works of all kinds, and their discernment of its 
beauty led them to introduce the same system 
' even into the forms of their .utensils and vases, 
the easy and elegant outline of which is drawn 
after the same rule, that is by a line the centre of 
which must be found by means of several circles. 
Thus all these works have an elliptical figure, and 
therein consists their beauty. The greater unity 
there is in the junction of the forms and in the 
flowing of one out of another, the greater is the 
beauty of the whole." 

* The expression I endeavoured to give my 
Venus was that spiritual elevation of character 



Gibson as Pygmalion. 211 

which results from purity and sweetness, combined 
with an air of unaffected dignity and grace. 
When this replica for Mr. Preston was finished 
I took the liberty to decorate it in a fashion un- 
precedented in modern times. I tinted the flesh 
like warm ivory — scarcely red — the eyes blue, the 
hair blond, and the net which contains the hair 
golden. " And her fair locks were woven up in 
gold," Spenser. The blue fillets encircling the 
head are edged with gold, and she has gold ear- 
rings. Her armlet is also of gold, and the apple 
in her hand, which has a Greek inscription on it 
" To the most beautiful." The drapery is left the 
white colour of the marble — the border ornament 
is pink and blue. At her feet is a tortoise, on the 
back of which is inscribed in Greek " Gibson 
made me at Rome." When all my labour was 
complete I often sat down quietly and alone before 
my work, meditating upon it and consulting my 
own simple feelings. I endeavoured to keep 
myself free from self-delusion as to the effect of 
the colouring. I said to myself ** Here is a little 
nearer approach to life — it is therefore more im- 
pressive — yes — yes indeed she seems an ethereal 
being with her blue eyes fixed upon me!" At 

moments I forgot that I was gazing at my own 

p 2 



212 Life of John Gibson, 

production ; there I sat before her, long and often* 
How was I ever to part with her ! 

* I am convinced that the Greek taste was right 
in colouring their sculpture. The warm glow is 
agreeable to the eye, and so is the variety obtained 
by it The flesh is of one tone, the hair of another ; 
the colouring of the eyes gives animation, and the 
ornaments on the drapery are distinctly seen. All 
these are great advantages. The moderns, being 
less refined than the Greeks in matters of art, are 
from long and stupid custom reconciled to the 
white statue. The flesh is white, the hair is white, 
the eyes are white, and the drapery white — this 
monotonous cold object is out of harmony with 
everything that surrounds it. It is not necessary 
that I should here give quotations from classical 
authors alluding to the polychromatic practice. 
All these are published and well known — as also 
the fact that fragments of fine Greek art have been 
found with traces of colour. Those who think 
that the Greeks did not colour sculpture in their 
high period of art are grossly mistaken. The 
Greek public were accustomed to see sculpture in 
gold and ivory, with the eyes of coloured glass, 
and of precious stones. A cold white statue would 
therefpre have appeared incomplete to that people. 



Trial.of Mrs. Prestojts, patience. 213 

But setting aside Greek authorities I can say that 
the effect of colour deHcately applied, and with 
judgment, charms me. All the sculptors in Rome 
and the painters too, including Cornelius, agreed 
with me — also Visconti — but the sculptors said, 
" We dare not follow your example, lest we might 
not sell our works." I replied, " I will fight it out, 
and go on." 

* I retained the Venus in my studio for four 
years after she was completed — a proceeding on 
my part which put Mrs. Preston's patience to a 
severe trial. I received several angry letters fromi 
that amiable lady. At last she asked me, point 
blank, whether I did not think I was using her 
very ill. I immediately confessed my sin and 
replied, " There is no doubt that I am using you 
abominably ill — yes — but the truth is I cannot 
screw up my courage to send away my Goddess. 
It is almost as difficult for me to part with her as 
it would be for Mr. Preston to part with you." I 
then copied her out some verses upon the Venus 
written by the Rev. E. S.,* hoping that they would 
keep her quiet for some time. However, all this 

* Oh, pure Ideal of the perfect grace 

That is in woman, such a form as thine 
In glorious Hellas did young fancy trace. 
Till beauties more than human seemed divine. 



214 Life of John Gibson. 

made very little impression on the lady, and at 
last I was obliged to send her the statue. 

* I will now continue my artistic proceedings. 
In the winter of 1855 the Duke of Wellington and 
his amiable Duchess visited the Eternal City, and 
often came to my studio in the Via Fontanella. 
The Duke expressed a wish to have my Venus, 
but she was not to be disposed of. Then he 
intimated his desire that I should execute for him 
some coloured statue, and proposed the subject of 
Pandora. His desire was that I should represent 
her at the moment when she starts into life — her 
dawning consciousness of existence — nude, with 



In such a fonp, seeking her destined home 
On high Olympus, from the azure wave 

Rose Aphrodite, daughter of the foam. 
The hearts of gods and mortals to enslave. 

In such a form, to win the glittering prize 
By Discord's hand amid the fairest thrown. 

Unveiled before the Trojan's dazzled eyes 
She claimed the palm of beauty for her own. 

Oh, wondrous might of genius to inspire 
The lifeless marble with a living ray, 

Flashed from the source of its own genial fire. 
Which lights the poet's heart with endless day. 

Oh touch of art ennobling ! who can gaze 
Upon that matchless form, that modest mien. 

Nor feel the power his inmost thoughts to raise, 
Nor learn to reverence purity serene. 



Myth of Pandora. 215 

some drapery hanging from her arm. I expressed 
my apprehension that, so treated, the subject 
would not be sufficiently intelligible. " Let a box 
be placed at her feet," said the Duke, ** and let 
her hands be open in an attitude of surprise at the 
discovery of her new existence." At once I saw 
that his Grace had imbibed an erroneous im- 
pression respecting the best mode of treatment 
I said to him in answer that I would model a 
Pandora. 

* Although the myth of Pandora is so well 
known, I will recapitulate the story, as it will show 
us what is necessary in treating the subject : 

* By Jove's desire arose the bashful maid, 
The cestus Pallas clasped, the robe anranged 
Adored Persuasion, and the Graces round 
Her tapered limbs with golden jewels hung. 
Round her fair brow the lovely-tressed Hours 
A garland twined of spring's purpureal flowers. 
The whole attire Minerva's graceful art 
Disposed, adjusted, formed to every part.* — Hesiod, 

* It is evident that the best moment of time to 
represent Pandora is when she is thus attired by 
the blue-eyed goddess, assisted by the Graces, and 
by reverent Persuasion, and crowned with flowers 
by the lovely Hours. Thus I have endeavoured 



2 1 6 Life of jfohn Gibson. 

to represent her, with the fatal box in her hand — 
drooping her head in deep thought, her eyes 
turned way from the box, while her hand is ready 
to raise the lid. The figure is motionless, but her 
mind is in full activity, labouring under the 
harassing feelings of intense curiosity, fear, and 
perplexity. H er thoughts have dwelled too long on 
what she bears. The box is still unopened, but 
Pandora is already lost We are the sufferers — but 
Hope did not escape with the evil brood — she 
stayed behind, and remains to the last with us. . . . 

* As the heat of Rome was increasing I left for 
England, taking with me three photographs of my 
Pandora. On arriving in London I waited on the 
Duke of Wellington and submitted them to him. 
He expressed his conviction of the truth of what 
had been reported to him by friends in Rome, 
namely that I had produced a beautiful figure; 
** but," said he, " Mr. Gibson, you have not 
followed my idea." " No," I replied, " I have 
followed my own!' " You are very stubborn," he 
remarked. " Duke," returned I, " I am a Welsh- 
man, and all the world knows that we are a 
stubborn race!" 

* Before I left London I received a letter from 
his Grace, expressing with great courtesy his dis- 



Statue of Bacchus, 2 1 7 

^appointment at my not treating the subject accord- 
ing to his view, and asking, if it did not incon- 
venience me, to be allowed to decline it. This 
gave me no inconvenience, for Lady Marian 
Alford, a lady of true knowledge in the arts, and 
who had watched the progress of the statue with 
much interest at Rome, had requested, in case the 
Duke should not be satisfied, to become its pos- 
sessor. Lady Marian had become converted to 
polychromy, and I therefore coloured the Pandora, 
* In the year 1856 the Marquis of Londonderry 
came to Rome with his lady, and often visited 
my studio. His Lordship was one of the many 
who did not approve of my new system of colour* 
ing my statues. Still, he was desirous of possessing 
a statue by me. He therefore proposed that the 
subject should be some youthful male beauty of 
the first class —a god — Bacchus. " That will do, 
by Jove!" said L "Yes, I will undertake this 
subject with delight — but it is improper to repre- 
sent him according to the vulgar idea, in a state of 
inebriation." Accordingly, I have given Dionysos, 
the. son of Jove, standing, with godlike dignity 
and youthful grace — his sceptre (the Thyrsis) in 
his left hand, and in his right the cup of wine. 
The god is not going to drink, but he is bestowing 



2 1 8 Life of John Gibson. 

the gift of the juice of the grape. His head is 
richly adorned with ivy, and as he is the " lover 
of flowers " there are flowers mixed in his wreath ; 
a fillet is entwined round his brow, and falls with 
his locks on each side of the neck. " The golden- 
haired Dionysos." 

* The expression of his godlike countenance is 
that of tranquillity and sweetness ; the upper and 
lower eyelids are a little swelled, which gives soft- 
ness and a slight touch of dreamy voluptuousness 
to his rather feminine countenance, whilst his lips 
are slightly apart, "as if a word were hovering 
there." His form is purely abstract, therefore 
refined to the utmost 

* Besides the male models I employed a female 
one too, so as to enter thoroughly into the spirit of 
the Greek idea, that Apollo, Dionysos, and Eros 
are androgynous. I have introduced a lyre at his 
feet ** The Muse leader,** " The dance rouser." 
For giving a lyre to Bacchus I was called to ac- 
count by three English gentlemen of high educa- 
tion, who maintained that there were no statues 
of that god represented with that instrument I 
confessed that I had never seen such a thing, but 
for all that I had my authority, for Calistratus 
describes a bronze figure of Bacchus by Praxiteles 



Stattte oj Bacchus. 219 

with a lyre — and that bronze was coloured. 
People may say truly that we have done with the 
gods of the Pantheon, and that these subjects no 
longer interest us or touch our feelings ; but I say 
that we sculptors have still to do with these marble 
deities, for they teach us all that is beautiful and 
sublime in our art. Those people who object are 
influenced by their religious feelings, and take no 
pleasure in high art, but it is beauty and perfection 
of the human form that the sculptor labours for. 

'After Lord Londonderry had given me the 
commission for the statue of Bacchus, he came to 
my studio and took leave of me — and as he was 
leaving he turned and said, " Now don't you go 
and paint my statue." I made no reply. 

* The following winter, when modelling the Bac- 
chus, Lord and Lady Portarlington were in Rome. 
At a large evening party I saw Lady Portarlington 
and went up and made my bow to her. She said, 
" Is it true that you have told some persons that 
you intend to paint my brother s statue of Bac- 
chus?" "Yes," said I, immediately, "it is true." 
" But my brother told you not to paint it." "He 
did so," I replied, " but I am determined to colour 
it" Her ladyship appeared displeased, and said 
no more. 



2 20 Life of John Gibson. 

Gibson had also the opportunity of applying* 
his theory of colour to a portrait statue — that of 
the Hon. Mrs. Murray, afterwards Countess of 
Beauchamp. Of this lady, when in Rome, he 
modelled a full length figure with a soft shawl 
arranged low round the skirt of the figure, giving 
beautiful drapery. This work was executed for 
Lady Beauchamp s mother the Baroness Bray, 
one of Gibson's kind friends. Hearing of the 
admiration his coloured Venus excited in Rome, 
Lady Beauchamp, on his coming to England, 
authorised him to tint the statue of herself After 
this irrevocable step had been taken the Countess 
took alarm in consequence of some adverse dinner- 
party criticism, and summoned Gibson to the 
rescue, who endeavoured to infuse his own pug- 
nacious indifference into her mind. ' " Do as I do. 
Lady Beauchamp — fight it out with them — what 
does it matter whether they like it or not ? " I 
then requested some friends of my own to see the 
statue, then at Lady Bray s house in Great Stan- 
hope Street — including Sir Charles and Lady 
Eastlake, Mrs. Jameson, Mr. Cockerell and others 
— Lady Beauchamp herself being present The 
impression it made on them reassured her lady- 
ship. I was told that Mr. Cockerell afterwards 



Statue of Lady Beauchamp, ill 

spoke with approbation of the effect of my statue 
at a meeting of artists/ 

It was in the Great Exhibition of 1862 that the 
world had an opportunity of inspecting Gibson s 
new heresy. In a light, quadrangular temple, con- 
structed with the utmost judgment and taste by 
Mr. Owen Jones, three of his tinted statues — « 
the Venus belonging to Mrs. Preston, the Pandora 
to Lady Marian Alford, and the Cupid to Mr. 
Holford — were seen to the utmost advantage ,' 
the fourth place being occupied by Miss Hosmer s 
Zenobia, a finely draped figure guiltless of any 
stain. This was truly, as Gibson expressed him- 
self, * A bone for the scribblers to pick.' And not 
for the scribblers only, but for the talkers too. 
And those perhaps talked most who knew least 
For every young lady at dinner-table or in ball- 
room in that London season of 1862 felt herself 
called upon to tell her partner what she thought 
of ' Gibson's coloured Venus,' while the facility 
with which judgment was pronounced on these 
occasions was almost enviable to those who had 
greater difficulty or diffidence in delivering an 
opinion. In truth the question lay totally beyond 
the English public, who at best have scarcely ad- 
vanced, even as regards pictorial art, beyond the 



222 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

lowest step of the aesthetic ladder — ^the estimate of 
a subject But here the subjects offered nothing to 
amuse the eye or touch the fancy. Grace, dignity, 
beauty, truth, and difficulties innumerable over- 
come, were, it is true, to be discovered here — but 
what were they to an uneducated multitude who 
infinitely preferred, as in Monti's veiled heads, to 
see difficulties evaded altogether.* It may be 
safely asserted that, but for the novelty and catch- 
word of the colour, these exquisite works of art 
would have been passed over with utter indiffer- 
ence by nine-tenths of those who crowded to stare 
at them. At the same time there is no doubt that 
among those who hung silently and long over the 
rail which protected the temple from the pressure 
of the multitude, there were a few who imbibed 
new and elevating impressions of which they could 
perhaps give little account to themselves, and still 
less to others. 

Gibson deeply felt the death of the great and 
good Prince Consort — for whom he had personally 
the highest admiration and respect At the time 
when the design for a memorial in Hyde Park 



* No depreciation of Signor Monti's powers is here intended. 
No one set a juster value on his veiled figures than this gifted 
artist himself. 



Memorial to the Prince Consort^ 223 

gave Her Majesty much anxiety, he was applied 
to for his opinion. I am permitted to copy his 
answer to General the Hon. Charles Grey. 

* Rome, Febniary 19, 1862. 

* Dear Sir — I have the pleasure to acknowledge 
the honor of your kind letter, which I have read 
with deep interest 

* I fear you have too much confidence in my 
judgment ; however, I willingly do my humble 
duty and express what I feel on the important 
subject 

* Then, with due submission, I confess I do not 
consider the appropriation of an Egyptian obelisk 
to the memory of the Prince the best thing to do. 
The obelisk did well with Egyptian temples ; one 
harmonized with the other ; but surrounding its 
base with our sculpture groups is out of harmony 
— inconsistent mixture ! Would the Greeks with 
their genius and taste for beauty have erected at 
Athens an Egyptian obelisk in honor of any of 
their great men "i Let us imitate the Greeks. 

* Now would not some architectural display, 
classical and pure, be more in harmony with the 
good and correct taste of the departed One ? A 
classical mausoleum would be an object of beauty, 



224 Life of yohn Gibson. 

and much more calculated to draw the admiration 
of the multitude. Behold the graceful monument 
towering high upon many steps, surrounded by 
Ionic columns — you enter, and you behold the 
statue of the Prince sitting in repose and medita- 
tion, with a book in his hand. In the niches 
which surround you are allegorical statues — em- 
blems of the Prince's virtues, and of his intellectual 
powers. There are those who advocate the exclu- 
sion of allegory from this art, that is they wish to. 
do away with the language of sculpture. I have 
had a proof that the Prince knew better than those 
men. 

' The opinion of two or three of the first-rate 
architects would be the most valuable ; men of 
practice and knowledge in their profession. ISir 
Charles Eastlake, though not an architect, is a 
man of knowledge and good taste ; there are 
many who sit in judgment without real judgment 
— these are the most numerous. 

* The statues ought to be in one style, classical 
and pure, to be in harmony with the whole ; 
the sculptors carefully chosen. There should 
be made a model of the best design, so as to 
enable the Queen to have a more clear idea of the 
effect 



Memorial to the Prince Consort. 225 

' A responsibility has fallen upon Her Majesty. 
She has the power 6i naming her choice, and she 
has a feeling for the beautiful. 

' I have the honor to be, dear sir, 

* Your obedient servant, 

'John Gibson.' 

Subsequently, when the present design for the 
memorial had been chosen, and the groups for 
sculpture determined upon, Her Majesty wished 
that Gibson should undertake the group of Europe 
— but he felt that * after having been forty-six years 
roasted in Rome ' he could not venture to under- 
take a work which would require him to spend the 
winter in England. He offered afterwards to 
make the model in Rome and send it to be ex- 
ecuted in England, but by that time the group had 
been given over to another sculptor. 



226 Life ofyohn Gibson. 



CHAPTER XL 

GibsorCs Pupily Miss Hosmer — His Railway and other Adventures 
— Analysis of his Art — His wonderfully executed Drawings — 
Summary of his Character — Illness — Death — Will in favour 
of Royal Academy, 

WE may now allude to the only pupil Gibson 
ever professed to teach, and in whom he 
may justly be said to have raised a living monu- 
ment to himself. Miss Harriet Hosmer, whose 
name is widely known on two continents, was the 
only surviving child of a physician at Boston. 
Her mother, who died before her child could 
remember her, had a great love of art — her father 
was fertile in mechanical resources, and a man of 
great wit and humour. The young lady managed 
to inherit the best gifts of both parents. At an 
early age she resolved to devote her life to the 
profession of a sculptor, and showed a determina- 
tion of character not likely to be diverted from 
any intelligent purpose she might form. As a 
child she was of delicate health, and was therefore 
kept much in the open air, where she would lie on 
her face by the river side and fashion her plastic 



Harriet Hosmer. 22 j 

ideas in mud. Later, she studied anatomy for 
half a year at St. Louis — modelled, cast, and 
also cut some marble busts entirely herself 
Mr. Greenough, the American sculptor, who had 
resided at Florence, on being consulted as to who 
was the sculptor fittest to instruct her, instantly 
named Gibson. Her father consented, remarking 
' The best is good enough for you.' 

Accordingly the father and daughter made their 
way to Europe, to Rome, and to Gibson's studio. 
Frequently have we heard Gibson relate the tale 
of his first visit from the strange, monosyllabic 
American girl, * Young Miss,' as he called her, 
to whom he set an experimental task to test her 
modelling powers. Her obvious ability and firm- 
ness of purpose broke down all his objections to 
receiving her as a pupil, which he ultimately did 
for no other consideration than that of the interest 
her talent and character inspired in him. As 
Canova had generously done for him, thirty-six 
years before, so did he for her — teaching her all he 
knew himself; while she on her part unconsciously 
repeated at the outset of her apprenticeship the 
trait which Gibson has related of himself at the 
same period. For he told her, as Canova had 
told him, to make the most of a few days in seeing 

Q2 



228 Life of John Gibson, 

the sights of Rome before entering his studio. 
* I shall come to-morrow/ was the laconic reply, 
and so she did. And it is interesting to have the 
pupil's account too. * The first morning I entered 
Mr. Gibson's studio (as a pupil) was the beginning 
of the year 1853 — he was working upon the knee 
of his Wounded Amazon — finishing it in marble. 
He laid down his chisel (how well I can see him 
now!) and received me most kindly— showed me 
all the statues in his studio, and then said " Now 
I will show you the room where you are to work — 
a little room, but as big as you are yourself" He 
always poked fun at me about my size. He 
impressed me as being very kind, but his peculiar 
curt manner rather filled me with awe. I did not at 
first discover that he dearly loved a little nonsense, 
and I was extremely demure and solemn with 
him — ^but that solemnity did not last long, and I 
never talked more nonsense with anyone than 
with the grave, staid Master. Apropos of the 
knee of the Amazon, I always told him I was 
more fond of that statue than of any other, from 
its being connected with my first impression of 
him. He said I always looked sentimental when 
I saw it. 

' I never saw him so well pleased with a bit of 



Harriet Hosmer. 229 

silliness as once when I wrote upon a bust in 
his studio which Miss Lloyd was copying in clay, 



"No progress. 
J. G." 



He discovered it after I had left 



the room, and remained till Miss Lloyd came in 
purposely to see the effect I know he never 
forgot it 

' As to his mode of teaching me he said he 
could best apply rules as he worked, and often he 
has made me sit by him by the hour together as 
he modelled. He was very funny sometimes in 
his criticisms. I remember asking him to come 
and see the sketch of Zenobia which I was then 
preparing. He looked at it for some time in 
silence, and I began to flatter myself that I should 
have some praise, but the only remark he deigned 
to make was, " Yes — there is such a thing as 
equilibrium.*' " But," said I, " this is only to see 
how the drapery comes in." ** Under all circum- 
stances," says he, " there is such a thing as equili- 
brium — yes — I will leave you to your troubles." ' 

Never was generous master more gratefully 
repaid — never was there a more interesting relation 
between teacher and scholar — or, it may be added, 
between man and woman. In certain respects the 
characters of each were identical — namely in love 



230 Life of John Gibson. 

of truth, and in devotion to their common occu- 
pation. Otherwise two persons could scarcely be 
found less alike, or who more keenly relished 
each other s idiosyncracies. To the shrewd, racy, 
Transatlantic young lady the serene simplicity 
and guilessness of the sculptor were matters as 
much of the keenest mirth as of the profoundest 
respect — while her ever playful wit and indepen- 
dant, origiucd ways were a new zest in a life which 
Time had begun to rob of its earlier companions 
and interests. In matters of art Gibson found in 
her the most tractable of scholars — in matters of 
life and action, the devotion of a daughter, mingled 
with the shrewd sense of one who knew intuitively 
what he could never learn. Meanwhile the Gib- 
soniana of his innocent mistakes and foibles, as 
given by her lively tongue, will never be forgotten 
by those who have listened to them ; all tempered 
as they now are by the pathos investing one who 
is heard no more. Had Miss Hosmer's avocations 
permitted it no one would have ventured to com- 
pete with her in editing the story of his life, and 
in defining the beauty of his character and of his 
art. 

No one needed such bright and helpful com- 
panionship more than Gibson. In his own studio 



Railway Mishaps. 231 

he could take very tolerable care of himself, but 
out of it he was riot fit to go a day's journey alone. 
MissHosmer s definition of him, which heenjoyedas 
much as any who heard it, was frequently applicable. 
* He is a god in his studio, but God help him 
when he is out of it' Gibson had in some mea- 
sure acquired the art of * vettura ' travelling, but 
the mysteries and irrevocable precisions of the 
railway were too much for him. It was easy to 
start him in the right train and with a right ticket 
in his hand, but he had an unfortunate knack of 
getting out either too soon or too late for his par- 
ticular destination. The story of one journey used 
to be in great request with his friends, and more 
especially that part where, having, as he thought, 
safely accomplished the transit, he desired a porter 
to show him the way to the cathedral * But the 
scoundrel would have it that there was no cathedral 
in the place, and at last had the impudence to ask 
me if I knew where I was ! Then I discovered 
that instead of being in Chichester, where I had 
a particular appointment with the Dean and 
Chapter, I was safe in Portsmouth, where there 
was no cathedral at all — ^no — none at all.' 

Another story of a vain attempt to reach Went- 
worth, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, was equally 



232 Life of John Gibson. 

in request with his hearers, and has been thus 
alluded to by himself in his biographical notes. 
* It was from the residence of Mr. Cheney of 
Badger Hall in Shropshire (how he got there he 
does not say) that I proceeded to Wentworth. 
The train soon stopped at a smsdl station, and 
seeing some people get out, I also descended, 
when, in a moment, the train moved on — faster 
and faster — and left me standing on the platform. 
I walked a few paces backwards and forwards in 
disagreeable meditation. " I wish to heaven," 
thought I to myself, " that I was on my way back 
to Rome with a vetturino ! " Then I observed a 
policeman darting his eyes upon me, as if he would 
look me through. Said I to the fellow, " Where 
is that cursed train gone to "i It's off with my 
luggage, and here am I !" The man asked me 
the name of the place where I took my ticket 
" I don't remember," said I ; "how should I know 
the name of any of these places — it is as long as 
my arm — I have it written down somewhere." 
" Pray, sir," said the man after a little pause, " are 
you a foreigner ?" " No," I replied, ** I am not a 
foreigner — I'm a sculptor." Then I told him that 
I had been living at Rome all my liife and was only 
here on a visit He seemed struck, and said that 



The Number Three. 233 

his father had been a sculptor too, and had worked 
for Flaxman. So then I found him changed in 
manner — no longer so sharp and laconic/ 

A few such mishaps as these increased kind 
Mrs. Huskisson's vigilance, and Gibson never left 
her hospitable care without previously written 
directions. But if the journey were for any dis- 
tance no directions in the world availed. When 
Mr. Williams, or Miss Hosmer, or any other 
friend, were unable to accompany him from Rome 
to England, a courier had him. in charge. And 
even when escorted by friends his ways were 
occasions of interminable amusement On a tour 
in Switzerland, where Miss Hosmer formed one of 
the party, she extended her usual care of the 
Master to his luggage as well. That consisted of 
three pieces, one of which was a hat-box. But 
Miss Hosmer soon observed that this box was 
never opened, and thus it remained, inviolate, to 
the end of the journey. Returned to Rome she 
ventured to ask what object had been served by 
giving the hat-box the tour, and herself the trouble 
of looking after it Gibson calmly replied, * The 
Greeks had a great respect for the number three — 
yes — the Greeks — ^for the number three,' and that 
was all the explanation she ever obtained. 



234 Life of John Gibson. 

The same vigilance which was necessary on 
journeys had to be exercised over him as regarded 
London engagements. After accepting an engage- 
ment to dine — for the express purpose of meeting 
people he particularly wished to see, or who still 
more wished to see him — the invitation being given 
long beforehand in order better to secure all 
parties — the whole fact would go out of his head, 
and when the day came Gibson would serenely 
congratulate himself that he had at length an 
evening free. Nor did the conviction and disgrace 
which was sure to ensue on the morrow in the 
least disconcert him. How should it, when he 
was perfectly content to own the worst — which 
was that he had forgotten all about the matter. 
It signified little to him that some of the dis- 
appointed hosts were of the great of the land. 
Nor was it less true that he would occasionally 
post a letter, and in some instances to the highest 
quarters, equally devoid of date, address, and 
signature. In short, Gibson was always Gibson. 
Yet it may be added in his own words, when 
writing of a very pretty woman, * I forget names, 
numbers, and places — ^but I never forget what is 
beautiful.' 

In editing these memoirs of a dear old friend I 



Purity of his Art 235 

have not attempted to describe his works consecu- 
tively — a list of their subjects and of the patrons 
for whom they were executed is given at the end 
of this volume. But my task would not be fulfilled 
without attempting a slight analysis of the art to 
which he devoted his entire affections. Nor could 
I venture to discourse on Gibson's merits as a 
sculptor single-handed. In what follows I am 
guided by the opinions of those most competent 
to judge, and mainly by those of one whom he 
had educated to form a sound judgment even 
upon himself. 

The great charm of Mr. Gibson's art corre- 
sponded with that of his own character — and that 
charm was its purity. In that respect no modern 
sculptor has approached him. Thorwaldsen's 
works are admired most by some, as more directed 
to human sympathy. It may be admitted that 
the great Danish sculptor appealed more to the 
heart than the head ; whereas Mr. Gibson's 
works, if less sympathetic, are more intellectual, 
and full of a refined beauty which Thorwaldsen 
(except in his Mercury) never equalled. At the 
same time the merit of great originality of inven- 
tion does not belong to Mr. Gibson — ^his loveliest 
things are classic myths translated into marble. 



236 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

Nor, though he was a real poet in feeling, can he 
be said to have left a poem in marble like Thor- 
waldsen's Night, which is the most exquisite poem 
ever penned by the modelling tool. But Mr. 
Gibson's knowledge of the human figure was 
consummate — his taste exquisite and sure — ^his 
feeling for drapery, his power of modelling it, and 
his unwearied patience in obtaining the best dis- 
position of the folds, were unapproachable. The 
finest modem specimen of drapery is perhaps that 
upon his Venus. (I venture to add that also upon 
his Clemency, in the group of Her Majesty.) 
With all his knowledge of anatomy and all his 
experience in modelling, he seldom made a sketch 
in clay eight inches high without the living model 
before him. This serves to show what patience 
and conscientious study he brought to his task. 

His Hunter may be reckoned as his greatest 
work. In this he is as original as powerful — in 
this he comes nearest to the spirit as distinguished 
from the style of the antique. He was v^ry fond 
of his Venus, but he was proud of his Hunter. 
He was very fond, too, of his Cupid with the 
Butterfly — * Love tormenting the Soul' — the one 
belonging to Mr. Holford — and for sentiment that 
may be looked upon as one of the most exquisite 



His Skill as a Draughtsman. 237 

of his productions. His last group of Theseus 
and the Robber, which had been in his mind for 
years, is very grand. Had he lived to finish that, 
it would have been his greatest achievement His 
style has the antique charm — that is, great strength 
and anatomical knowledge, with the most refined 
and delicate beauty, perfect drawing, and nobility 
of sentiment 

His skill in bas-relief was especially great — ^here 
again no living sculptor comes near him. The 
bas-relief of the Hours leading the Horses of the 
Sun, which, as has been seen, he modelled with 
such delight and ardour, is in itself a sufficient 
pedestal for his fame to rest on. His knowledge 
of the laws which govern this department of 
sculpture was profound. Hence his drawings, 
which may be classed under the head of bas-reliefs, 
are among the strongest evidences of his powers. 
His skill as a draughtsman is possessed by no living 
man. The original drawing of the Marriage Feast 
of Cupid and Psyche, done some years before his 
death, when his hand was firm as a rock, is match- 
less. The outline looks as if it were engraved. 
If a fellow-labourer in the art were to speak frankly 
he would perhaps say Mr. Gibson's greatness lay 
more in his wonderfully-executed drawings than in 



238 Life of yohn Gibson. 

his finished works — his drawings have a fire and 
passion which his marble does not entirely translate. 
For this reason in his iconic statues, where fire and 
passion have no place, he is peculiarly grand. Of 
these portrait monuments the first statue of Mr. 
Huskisson, with the bare arm, may be said to be 
the finest. The statue of Her Majesty, life size, 
is also a most beautiful production. 

In knowledge of the horse he stands pre-emi- 
nent He gave great attention to the study of 
this animal in the grand bas-reliefs at Wentworth, 
and it is to be regretted that no equestrian statue 
exists by his hand. 

Gibson chose his subjects either from classic 
story, or from incidents in real life which he 
turned to account, as we have seen, under some 
classic name. But late in life — beginning it in 
1862 — he modelled a sacred subject, Christ bless- 
ing little children. This was in the form of a 
bas-relief He was anxious to show that he could 
deal with such a group. He describes his feelings 
in his own characteristic way in a letter to Mr. 
Sandbach, for whom the work was executed. 
* When I began to model the head of Christ, the 
fear of failing came over me. I had to express the 
Divine within, perceived through outward form — 



A Christian Subject. 239 

the form of man — elevated, beautiful, and be- 
nevolent' This bas-relief shows that he could 
rise to the conception of Christian art The 
Divine head is full of pathos, and some of the 
children beautifully felt A naked boy resisting 
his mother's efforts to bring him to the Saviour 
belongs to Gibson's Grecian part, and would have 
been in place in an antique procession. His own 
features and those of Mr. Sandbach are introduced 
in two of the male figures. 

I have said before, or rather Gibson has said 
for himself, that he found entire happiness in his 
art Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that 
little tender temptations ever and anon assaulted 
him. As late as i860 he wrote to one who 
had observed symptoms more than usually re- 
dolent of * the arrow of soft tribulations,' * That 
bit of temptation at Liverpool glides round about 
me, but some one will be beforehand with me 
before I can make up my mind to give up Rome 
for Liverpool ;' but he never really wavered. He 
was not meant in any way for the cares and re- 
sponsibilities of life, and he worked on all his days, 
in his own words, * happily and with ever new 
pleasure, avoiding evil, and with a calm soul — 
making images, not for worship, but for the love 



240 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

of the beautiful. The beautiful elevates us above 
the crowd in this world — the ideal, higher — ^yes — 
higher still — to celestial beauty — the fountain of 
all. Socrates said that outward beauty is the sign 
of inward — in the life of a man, as in an image, 
every part should be beautiful.' 

Such sentiments as these, from whatever source, 
were to Gibson a guiding reality. Would that all 
lived as much up to their light as he ! 

At the same time the tributes of respect which 
follow on fame, were, like Fame herself, never more 
thoroughly enjoyed by any man than by this serene 
and virtuous philosopher. The compliment paid to 
him (and as was truly said to England too) by the 
late King of Bavaria in placing his statue with 
that of Thorwaldsen, Tenerani, and Ranch, on the 
exterior of the Glyptothek, and in the Hall of the 
Walhalla ; that other still more personal compli- 
ment by Lord Lytton in the dedication of * Zanoni ' 
to him— human tributes of which any man might 
be proud — ^were received by Gibson with a sim- 
plicity of self-respect which lent them a higher 
worth. The condescending kindness of Her 
Majesty and of the noble Prince Consort — the 
visits of the Prince of Wales and the Princess 
Royal to Rome, and to his studio — their unfeigned 



Summary of his Character, 241 

pleasure in the company of one so fresh, artless, 
and unembarrassed, shed real gladness into his 
heart. Utterly unconventional himself he soon 
dissipated the outer conventions of all who ap- 
proached him. Etiquette was no more made for 
him than for a child, and if ever transgressed by 
him the fault was the result of a purer feeling 
than such rules are meant to restrain. 

I have said enough, I think, and have allowed 
him to say enough for himself, to show the pure 
and guileless, the truly Christian nature of the 
man. As years passed on Gibson began to feel 
their weight, though his hand knew no decline. 
He left Rome regularly as the heat began — visited 
England, Switzerland or the Tyrol — always return- 
ing to Rome with comparatively renewed strength. 
But more than once he had fallen unconscious in 
his studio, though apparently rising again without 
any perceptible decline of power. The summer 
of 1864 had been spent chiefly at Leghorn by him 
and his friend Mr. Penry Williams — not the best 
place in July and August for bracing the nerves. 
Switzerland had been their destination, but Gibson, 
worn with heat and fatigue, stuck fast at Leghorn. 
He writes to Miss Lloyd, * I am surprised at my- 
self for not having continued on to Switzerland. 

R 



242 Life of John Gibson, 

Williams should have insisted, but he did not If 
you or Miss Hosmer had been in charge of us you 
would have pushed us on. I do say that a woman 
is a useful thing in this world, for she gives good 
advice/ In 1865 again, although he crossed the 
Alps to Lucerne, the weather was most unfavour- 
able, and the two friends turned back to the Lago 
Maggiore. Perhaps the absence of more invigo- 
rating air for these two successive summers was 
unfortunate. However, the time for departure 
was come. After visiting, with Mr. Penry Wil- 
liams, a sick room at Milan — the last time I saw 
him — he returned to Rome in October, feeling 
particularly well, and resumed his usual labours. 
On the 9th of January 1866, when apparently in 
perfect health, he was seized with paralysis. He 
had shortly before received the tidings of the 
death of Sir Charles Eastlake, which, it is believed, 
expedited the fatal blow. A second and a third 
stroke deprived him of speech. When a telegram 
from Her Majesty enquiring for him, and exprless- 
ing regret at hearing of his illness, was conveyed to 
him by Mr. Odo Russell, he was still conscious. He 
lifted his hand as far as he could, the paper was put 
into it, and he held it firmly. It was the last thing 
that roused him. One who was present thus 



His Death, 243 

wrote, * I hope Her Majesty has been told how he 
felt her gracious kindness.' The same writer 
adds, 'Very early on the morning of his death 
Miss Lloyd and I were summoned hastily to his 
room. Good Miss Lloyd remained with him to 
the last, but I left a kiss on his forehead and came 
away. Oh ! how cold and drear the stars looked 
that morning as I walked slowly home! I saw 
the Master a moment after death. How grand 
and calm, and beautiful the face wasl Then I 
left Rome for a time. One of my best friends 
was taken from me when the Master died.' 

John Gibson died on the 27th of January 1866 
— and lies in the English cemetery at Rome. 
Having been decorated with the cross of the 
Legion of Honour, a company of French soldiers 
with muffled drums, formed part of the funeral 
procession, and fired a salute over the grave. 

The last words he penned were to me. I shall 
be forgiven for allowing the reader to peruse this 
pathetic fragment — at once the last page in 
Gibson's history, and a tribute to him who had 
left this world little more than a month before. 

'January, 1866. 

* My dear Lady Eastlake, — Ever since that sad 
hour when I received your letter my spirit has 



244 ^^fo of John Gibson 

been oppressed by the intelligence of the great 
loss you have sustained — the loss of your most 
affectionate one — one so eminent for his talent 
and worth. How honourable and just he was in 
all the actions of his life ! Yes — dear Lady East- 
lake, I do sympathise deeply with you. I am one 
of the many who mourn over this sad event 

' As time rolled on I felt deeper and deeper In 
his debt — it was he brought me forth to the 
patronage of the Prince and Queen — and also to 
the Royal Academy. 

* Sir Charles' best works will always be admired 
for their beauty and refined taste by all who 
have real knowledge of the great masters. You 
contributed greatly to the happiness of his life; 
by your knowledge of art— by your affectionate 
nature*' ... 



Mr. Gibson had no near relations except his 
brother Solomon, for whom he had amply pro- 
vided.* His thoughts therefore turned to his 
own country, and to the Academy of which he 

* Mr. Solomon Gibson, hearing of the illness of his brother, 
started immediately from Liverpool, where he resided, in order to 
see him. He was unaccompanied, and never reached Rome. At 
Paris, entering an hotel, he fell doWn dead. His death took place 
a few days before that of his brother. 



Letter to Sir Charles L. East lake. 245 

felt himself proud to be a member. He wrote 
thus in 1864 to Sir Charles Eastlake, as President 
of that body. 

* My renowned master Canova left in his will the 
models of some of his works to the Academy of his 
own country. Thorwaldsen left all his models to 
his sovereign and country, with the principal 
amount of his money. They are arranged and 
seen by the public of his own country. It is this 
fact that has induced me to venture to make an 
offer to leave in my will all the models of my works 
executed in marble, with the chief part of my for- 
tune, to the Royal Academy. In my offer to the 
Academy the sum of money which I have named 
is presented with the collection of the models in 
plaster, on condition that space be provided to 
arrange them in — that they may be seen during 
Exhibition days by the public. 

' I will also express without fear of being con- 
sidered presumptuous that these works of mine — 
the labour of forty-six years of study and practice 
under the instruction for five years of Canova, 
and, after his death, of Thorwaldsen, and at the 
same time surrounded by able rivals from different 
nations — ^yes — I do feel that the collection of my 
models seen together would be of use to the 
young sculptors as to style.' 



246 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

It is almost needless to say that this offer, upon 
the conditions stated, was joyfully accepted at a 
general meeting of the Academy. 

By his will, therefore, as it ultimately stood, 
Mr. Gibson left his entire fortune to the Royal 
Academy — legacies of a small amount to friends, 
excepted — together with the contents of his 
studio. These include not merely casts from all 
his works, and models in plaster of various de- 
signs not executed in marble, but also the grand 
and nearly finished group of Theseus and the 
Robber left in clay, and cast after his death ; with 
his original statue of Bacchus in marble, and 
several replicas in marble from other statues. 
Also his book of original designs. 

I am permitted to add that, as soon as arrange- 
ments can be made, these works, embodying the 
entire course of the great Sculptor's art, will be 
placed in Old Burlington House, and made 

available at all times for public inspection. 
A simple monument of a Greek character is 

erected over Gibson's grave, bearing a medallion 

profile of his fine head, and with the following 

inscription from the pen of Lord Lytton. 



Inscription on his Monument 247 



TO THE MEMORY OF 

JOHN GIBSON, SCULPTOR, R.A. 

BORN AT CONWAY 19"^" JUNE, 179O, DIED AT ROME, WHERE HE HAD 

RESIDED 48 YEARS, 27^" JAN\, 1866. 

HIS NATIVE GENIUS STRENGTHENED BY CAREFUL STUDY, 

HE INFUSED THE SPIRIT OF GRECIAN ART 

INTO MASTERPIECES ALL HIS OWN. 

HIS CHARACTER AS A MAN WAS IN UNISON 

WITH HIS ATTRIBUTES AS AN ARTIST, 

BEAUTIFUL IN ITS SIMPLICITY AND TRUTHFULNESS, 

NOBLE IN ITS DIGNITY AND ELEVATION. 



A monument was also raised to Gibson in the 
church at Conway. This was done by a sub- 
scription limited to a few friends, among whom 
appears the name of the Prince of Wales. 

Mr. Gibson was member of most of the prin- 
cipal Academies of Art, the diplomas of which 
have been consigned to the Royal Academy. 
The Prussian order of Full Merit arrived just 
after his death. 

A fine portrait of him by the hand of Mr. 
Boxall, R.A., belongs to the Gallery of Diploma 
Works in the Royal Academy. Two portraits of 



248 Life of y ohn Gibson. 

him were painted by Mr. Penry Williams. The 
one, taken at an early period of his residence in 
Rome, was presented to the Academy of St. 
Luke; the other, painted in 1865, to that of 
Urbino. The first of these two portraits has 
been engraved by Wagstaff, The best bust of 
him was modelled by Mr. Theed, from which the 
profile outline, heading this work, is taken. 



LIST OF WORKS EXECUTED AT ROME* 



BY 



JOHN GIBSON, R.A. 



GROUPS. 



Subject 



Her Majesty the Queen 
between Justice and 
Clemency . 

Mars and Cupid . 

Physche borne by Ze- 
phyrs 

Repetition • 
Repetition . 



Hylas surprised by 
Nymphs 

Hunter and Dog . 

Repetition • 

Repetition » 

Repetition (unfinished 
at Gibson's death) 

Nymph kissing Cupid 

Repetition . 

Repetition, tinted . 

Wounded Warrior tend- 
ed by Female figure 

• (unfinished at Gib- 
son's death) 



Owner 



Duke of Devonshire . 
Sir George Beaumont . 

Prince Torlonia • 

Present Emperor of 
Russia 

R. Vernon, Esq. '. 

Henry Sandbach, Esq. 

Lord Yarborough 
Mr. Clare . 



John Malcolm, Esq. . 
W. R. Sandbach, Esq. 

Prince of Wales , 



Place 



Prince's Chamber, 
Palace of West- 
minster. 

Chatsworth. 



Palazzo Torlonia, 
Rome. 

St. Petersburg. 

National Gallery. 

Hafodunos, lian- 
rwst 

Arlington Street 

Liverpool. 

Australia. 

Poltallock. 

10 Prince's Gate, 
London. 

Marlborough House. 

Royal Academy 



* This list is unavoidably incomplete, and does not pretend to be chronological. 



250 



List of Works by 



STATUES. 



Subject 



Paris 



Sleeping Shepherd-boy 
Repetition . 

Repetition . 

Cupid tormenting the 
Soul 

Repetition . 



Repetition, tinted . 

Cupid disguised as a 
Shepherd 

Repetition . 
Repetition . 

Repetition . 

Repetition . 

Repetition . . 

Repetition . 

Repetition . 

Repetition . 
Nymph at the Bath 
Nymph Reposing 
Sappho 
Flora . 

Repetition 



Repetition 
Narcissus . 
Repetition 
Repetition 
Repetition 



Owner. 



G. Watson Taylor, Esq., 
M.P. 

Lord Geo. Cavendish. 

Duke of Northumber- 
land. 

Mr. Lennox . 

Lord Selsey. 

R. Yates, Esq. 



R. S. Holford, Esq. . 
Sir John Johnstone , 

Present Emperor of 
Russia. 

Right Hon. Sir Robert 
•Peel. 

— Collingwood, Esq. 
Mr. Appleton 

Lord Crewe . 
R. Allison, Esq. . 
Henry Famham, Esq. . 
Abel Bulkley, Esq., Jun. 
Earl of Yarborough. 
Count Schonberg 
Patteson EUames, Esq. 
Lord Durham. 

— Williams, Esq. 

R. Allison, Esq. . 
Lord Harrington. 

— Fort, Esq. 

— Errington, Esq. 



Place 



New York. 



Liverpool. (Now 
in possession of 
Michael Belcher, 
Esq., Holmestead 
House,LiverpooL) 

Dorchester House. 



Boston, U. S. 
Crewe Hall. 
Liverpool. 
Philadelphia, U. S. 

Arlington Street 

Bavaria. 

Liverpool. 



Gwersyllt, North 
Wales. 



Liverpool 



Manchester. 



Presented to Royal 
Academy. 



yohn Gibson. 



251 



STATUES — continued. 



Subject 



Proserpine . 

Repetition 
Venus . 

Repetition 

Repetition 

Repetition 

Repetition, on a 
smaller scale 

Wounded Amazon 
Repetition . 



Aurora 



Repetition . 
Bacchus 
Pandora 

Repetition . 

Repetition , 

Hebe . 

Repetition . 

Repetition, tinted 
Cupid . 

Dancing Nymph with 
Castanets . 

Pysche carrying a Cake 
to Cerberus 

Nymph kissing Cupid 



Owner. 



Place 



Mr. Ablett . 



• • 



Dwarkanauth Tagore . 
Mr. Neeld. 
Mrs. Preston 

Marquis of Sligo, 
M. Uzzielli, Esq. 
Prince of Wales . 

Marquis of Westmin- 
ster 

Mrs. Preston 

H. Sandbachy Esq. 



Dr. Henry. 



Lady Marian Alford. 
— Penn, Esq. 
Mr. Laurence 

Howard Galton, Esq. 

Sir Francis Goldsmid, 
Bart, M. P. 



Sir W. W. Wynn. 
— Stirling, Esq. 



Llanbedr Hall, Nth. 
Wales. 

Calcutta. 



Chesterfield House, 
Richmond. 



Marlborough House. 

Eaton Hall, Che- 
shire. 

Chesterfield House, 
Richmond . 

Hafodunos, Llan- 
rwst. 



Royal Academy. 



Mossley Hill, Liver- 
pool. 

Hadzor. 

St. John's Lodge, 
Regent's Park. 

Royal Academy. 

St. James's Square, 
London. 

Glasgow. 



252 



List of Works by 



PORTRAIT STATUES. 



Subject 


Place 


Her Majesty the Queen . , 

Repetition 

Countess Dowager of Beauchamp, tinted 
Right Honourable Sir Robert Peel 
Right Honourable William Huskisson 
Another statue of the same . 


Buckingham Palace. 

Osborne. 

London. 

Westminster Abbey. 

Liverpool Cemetery. 

Lloyd's, Royal Exchange, 
London. 


Repetition, in bronze • • • . 

George Stephenson 

Van Mildert, Bishop of Durham . 


Front of Custom House, 
Liverpool 

St George's Hall, Liverpool 


Kirkman Finlay, Esq., M.P. 
Dudley North, Esq., M.P. 


Glasgow. 



PORTRAIT BUSTS. 



Subject 



Two busts of Her Majesty. 

One bust of H. R. H. Princess of Wales 

Wm. Roscoe, Esq. 

Watson Taylor, Esq., M.P. 

Mrs. Watson Taylor. 

Duchess of Wellington. 

Viscountess Clifden. 

Mrs. Henry Sandbach. 

Mr. Henry Sandbach. 

Sir Charles L. Eastlake. 

Mrs. Mainwaring. 

Mrs. Jameson. 

Sir Charles LyelL 

Grazia. 

Luisa — * a Sabine Woman.' 

Miss Albano. 

Dhuleep Singh. 

Rt. Hon. Ed. Cardwell, M.P. 

John Lloyd Wynne, Esq. 



John Gibson, 



253 



BASSI RILIEVI. 



Subject 


Owner. 


Place 


The Hours leading the 
Horses of the Sun 


Earl Fitzwilliam . 


Wentworth House. 


Phaeton driving • the 
Chariot of the Sun 


Same « . « 


Wentworth House. 


Juno conducting Hyp- 
nos to Jupiter 


Her Majesty. 




Meeting of Hero and 
Leander 


Duke of Devonshire . 


Chatsworth. 


Maniage of Psyche 
and Celestial Love 


Her Majesty. 




Repetition * 


Duke of Northumber- 
land. 




Repetition • 


Miss Webb. 




Cupid pursuing Psyche 


Duke of Northumber- 
land. 




Repetition . 


Henry Sandbach, Esq. 


Hafodunos, Llan- 
rwst, N. Wales. 


Repetition , 


Miss Webb. 




Amalthea nursing the 
Infant Jupiter 


Earl of Carlisle • < 


Castle Howards 


Wounded Amazon and 
Horse 


Mrs* Huskisson . 


Eartham^ 


Cupid and Psyche 


Same • • • 


Eartham 


Repetition . 




Royal Academy* 


Venus and Cupid 


Mafquis of Abercorn. 




Repetition . 


Howard Gallon, Esq. . 


Hadzor. 


Amazon on Ground, 
dragged by her horse. 


Same • «- • . 


Same. 


Minerva bringing Pega- 
sus to Bellerophon 


C. S. Dickens, Esq. 




Eros and Anteros con- 
tending for the Soul 


Lady Davy. 




Christ blessing little 
Children. 


H* Sandbach, Esq. * 


Hafodunos^ Uan- 
rwst 


Eros and Aphrodite. 






Zephyrus and Psyche. 







254 



List of Works by 



BASSI RILIEVI: MONUMENTAL. 



Subject 



Justice protecting Innocence. In 
memory of Thomas Earle, Esq. 

William Earle, Esq., seated, reading the 
Bible 

Figure of Hope. In memory of Mr. and 
Mrs. E. Roscoe 

An Angel consoling Wife and two Child- 
ren. In memory of Eyre Coote, Esq. 

A Husband mourning over his dying 
Wife, with an Infant in his arms. In 
memory of Mrs. Byrom 

Figure of Blundell Holinshed, Esq., 
accompanied by Guardian Angel 

An Act of Charity. In memory of — 
Hamerton, Esq. 

Seated Figure. In memory of Mrs. 
Robinson 

Angel carrying Infant, and leading the 
Mother to Heaven. In memory of 
Countess of Leicester. 

Angel receiving the Spirit In memory 
of Mrs. Pigott. 

Portrait figure of Mrs. Henry Sandbach. 
In memory of her. 

Angel receiving the Spirit In memory 
of Lady Knightley. 

Angel descending to the Dying. In 
memory of Mrs. Cheney. 

Mrs. Huskisson kneeling, angel descend- 
ing 

Mr. Westcar. In memory of him. 

Angel plucking Flowers. In memory of 
four Bonomi Children who died in 
one week. 



Place 



Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. 
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. 
Liverpool Unitarian Chapel. 



Daresbury Church, near War- 
rington, Cheshire. 

Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. 

Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. 

Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. 



Hafodunos. 



Chichester Cathedral. 



yohtt Gibson. 255 

MODELS IN PLASTER. 

(Chiefly belonging to the Royal Academy.) 




Eteocles and Polynices ; Jocasta intervening. 

Birth of Venus ; received by Celestial Love, and crowned by Persuasion. 
Cupid wounding Sappho. 

Venus and Cupid appearing to Sappho to console her. 
Love and Idleness. 

Psyche receiving nectar from Hebe, in the presence of Celestial Love. 
CEnone : Shepherdess deserted by Paris. 
Love between Beauty and Fortune. 
The Death of Hippolytus. 

Wounded Warrior, and Female tending his wound. 
Theseus and Robber, 

Clay Sketch, on smaller scale, of Theseus and Robber. (Belonging to 
Miss Hosmer.) 



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